Mobile phones for a blackout, or a working weekend abroad

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Mobile phones for a blackout, or a working weekend abroad

Those of us who were in New York City for the August blackout were delighted to discover that mobile telephones – like landlines –worked (yes, we know on some intellectual level that other places also lost power, but we in New York City aren’t all that aware of the rest of the world). However, as the blackout stretched on into the next day an interesting thing began to happen: The batteries in most peoples’ mobile phones died.

We have long believed that the primary reason to have a mobile phone is to make calls. There are two things you need to do this. The first is access to the mobile network (i.e., you have a signal) and the second is a battery that isn’t dead. For this reason we have traditionally used those Nokia 61xx and 63xx series handsets which allowed use of batteries of up to 3800 mAh capacity, which gave something like a month standby time or twenty hours talk time. This meant we could go away for a week, using a 6190 here or a 6150 in Central Europe or the Mideast (or a 6310i which is more efficient than the 61xx series and will last even longer, and would have been the perfect handset for business travelers for use in the U.S. and abroad if Nokia believed in quad-band handsets and had included 850 MHz), and never had to worry about re-charging the battery. We could certainly survive something as short-lived as a blackout without any problem, while everyone else’s more modern handsets faded away.

Sadly, the era of long talk-time phones is gone, due largely to economic pressures. In the past, mobile phones were luxury items that were primarily aimed at the business audience, who were a chatty group. Now they are commodity items aimed at a wider audience, with business travelers being a niche demographic market scarcely worth addressing. Today you can buy a handset with a camera, with an MP3 player, with an FM radio, with a recorder, with a color screen, and with all sorts of fancy games, but you can no longer buy a handset that will get you through the weekend.

Nokia (who don’t make a quad-band handset because they say that nobody other than Cingular is implementing GSM 850, somehow overlooking AT&T Wireless in the U.S., as well as entire countries like Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama), which used to be the company whose trademark was handsets that had long talk times, now considers that “ranges of 4-6 hours are the norm.” Staffers at AT&T Wireless said that they were given high- capacity batteries (double the capacity of the existing BLD-2 and BLD-3 batteries) that gave a marked increase in talk time for the Nokia 6800 and 6200, but the good folks at Nokia say there is no plan to release them.

What does this mean if you are a traveler interested primarily in making calls? If you don’t need 850 MHz you may wish to look for a Nokia 6310i while they can be still found, or get some other handset and carry three extra batteries. And if you need 850 MHz? Then you should get whatever handset you like that includes 850 MHz, and carry three extra batteries.

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