Smart Cell Phone Tricks

Dave Johnson

Are you getting the most from your wireless phone? Here are seven ways to find out

FOR MANY HOME OFFICE WORKERS, THE idea of getting through the day without their handy cell phone is as unthinkable as doing without a computer, fax machine, or morning cup of coffee. But, like people who never learn how to use half the buttons on their fax machines or coffeemakers, many mobile phone owners rarely bother to do more than make and answer conventional calls.

That may be understandable when you consider the cornucopia of features, options, and accessories available for the average wireless phone these days, but it’s hardly making the most of your investment. So we’ve collected an assortment of tips for taking advantage of your cell phone’s extra capabilities. Master a few of them, and your phone will probably become even more firmly grafted to your hand than it already is.

1. Invite a Third Party Need to talk to Betty back in the central office and your number one client at the same time? If you have three-way calling, it’s easy. Most cellular phone plans offer three-way calling, though you may not have noticed it in the contract’s fine print. With most phones, you make use of three-way calling in pretty much the same way.

Start by calling the first party, then enter the second number on the keypad. Press Send, and the first call will wait on hold while the second number connects. After making the connection, press Send again to bring all three of you on line together. Remember, though, that you’ll be charged airtime for each of the calls, even though both take place simultaneously.

2. Leave Yourself a Voice Memo If you have a wireless phone with voice-mail service, you’re actually carrying a pocket digital recorder–and may not have realized it. You can use your phone to take notes and leave yourself short messages.

Many phones equipped with voice mail–particularly those made by Samsung–include a voice memo button right on the phone. Hold the button, and you can record a message. If your phone doesn’t have a memo button, just call your own number and leave yourself a message. Carry your cell phone, and you’ll never need to tie string around your finger again.

3. Share Your Phone Numbers Chances are, your cell phone’s built-in memory has room to store dozens, if not hundreds, of names and numbers. But who has time to enter them all–especially when faced with the unappetizing prospect of using a tiny phone keypad to re-enter contact information that already exists in your handheld organizer?

Luckily, there are simple ways of getting that data into some phone models. If you opt for Kyocera Wireless’s (formerly Qualcomm’s) pdQ smart phone ($500; 800-349-4188,, you’re actually buying a Palm III PDA with a cell phone built in. Just HotSync it with your desktop PC to copy all the contacts stored in your personal information manager.

Other phones can synchronize with a Palm or Windows CE organizer. If you have one of Kyocera’s Thin Phone models, use the Data Connectivity Kit ($80)to synchronize stored numbers between the phone and computer. Other phones–like certain Ericsson, Nokia, and Motorola models–have an infrared port that you can use to exchange data with your Palm. You’ll need a shareware program called GSMtool ($20; Martin Renschler, search for GSMtool at to train your Palm to talk to those phones.

4. Use a Silent Alarm Many mobile phones let you modify the ringer so incoming calls are easier to hear in a room crowded with other noises. But there are times when you want your cell phone to be quiet–when you’re at the theater, for example, or having a meal at a fancy restaurant. For those situations, set your phone to vibrate, just as you would a pager.

5. Leave Your Hands Free Let’s be clear about one thing: It’s dangerous and stupid to use a cell phone while driving. But there are situations when you may want to place a call while your hands are occupied with something else–typing, preparing lunch, or referring to notes, for instance. If that sounds like you, you should try the voice-activated dialing feature built into a growing number of models. These phones use voice recognition to dial a number stored in your address book.

Remember, though, that the voice engines used in these phones work best when there are several syllables to work with, so instead of programming a number with just the name Bob, try Bob Smithers. Many phones are also compatible with a combination headset/microphone, eliminating the need to hold the phone at all. Check the accessories book that came with your phone for compatible headsets.

6. It’s a Cell Phone! It’s a Pager! If you have voice-mail service from a provider like AirTouch, you probably also have paging–and possibly even text messaging. That can be confusing because many phones use the same symbol for voice mail, paging, and messaging–so you may have a “message waiting” symbol on your phone’s LCD display while the voice-mail system insists you have no messages. Dig a little deeper in your phone’s menu system, though, and you’ll discover that the phone stores messages just like a pager.

7. Check Your E-Mail Many cell phones can do double duty as both a voice communications tool and a modem for your laptop or handheld PC. For example, the Nokia 6190 ($199; 888-665-4228, has a built-in data port for connecting your laptop. The phone then becomes a wireless modem, which you can use to check e-mail from anywhere you have cellular service–no need to jack into an airport telephone with a data port. To use your phone as a modem, you generally need a data cable that’s compatible with your phone, like Nokia’s Data Suite ($129) for the 6190.

If you have a Palm III, V, or VII series PDA, you can attach the PocketMail BackFlip ($99, plus $9.95 monthly service; 800-390-5034, www.pocketmail. com) to send and receive mail and send faxes from any cell phone–or for that matter, any corded, cordless, or pay phone, with no connection cable required. All you need to do is plug the 5.5-ounce BackFlip into your Palm’s HotSync port and hold the unit up to the phone’s mouthpiece.

COPYRIGHT 2000 CURTCO Freedom Communications

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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