Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Camera phone makes slick pix

By Kim Komando
Gannett News Service

Camera cell phones are a fun way to quickly share life's moments. That might be why they outsold digital cameras last year.

Buying a camera cell phone is no different than buying a regular cell phone. Everything begins with the wireless network. You can buy the most powerful phone available, but you won't get as much out of it if it's running on a network with poor or inconsistent coverage. Here are some tips to help you get started:

• Check the wireless network's service ratings with consumer organizations. J.D. Power and Associates (www.jdpower.com) is one entity that rates national networks.

After you choose a wireless carrier, find out which phones are available on its network. Most national networks list compatible phones on their Web sites. They generally cost $100 to $300.

• Try out phones you're interested in buying. This is one case where you want to shop in a bricks-and-mortar store. It's best to handle the phone before buying it. Feel its weight and try its menus. Pay attention to the keypad layout and other buttons. Some smaller phones have buttons so tiny that dialing can be a chore.

Consider how easy it is to capture, save and e-mail pictures from the phone. You'll want to be able to snap a picture quickly without having to navigate menus. The phone also should let you save a voice or text message with each picture.

• Know how much it costs to share your camera phone images. Once you take a picture, wireless carriers generally charge a fee to send it to another phone as a Multimedia Service message, e-mail it to an Internet address or upload it to an online storage site.

Fees for sharing camera phone pictures often are in addition to your base plan charges. Depending on the carrier, the fee might be a few dollars per month or it might be charged on a per-image basis, which could add up quickly if you're a shutterbug. Look for a flat fee for unlimited picture sharing.

If the camera phone can be connected to a computer via Universal Serial Bus, Bluetooth or infrared, you can avoid the fees altogether by sharing your photos after uploading them to a computer.

• Expect limitations. Camera phone pictures are adequate for sharing over the Internet or for viewing on another cell phone, but they don't have enough resolution for printing. The Web has many sites devoted to the camera phone phenomenon. Reiter's Camera Phone Report (www.cameraphonereport.com) is one of the most informative.


With reporting by Ted Rybka. Kim Komando hosts a national radio show about computers and the Internet. To subscribe to her email newsletter, send a note to newsletter@Komando.com

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