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Wireless message, e-mail show promise

While cell phones so far can provide only a stunted sampling of the Web, they do come in handy for e-mail and for new text messaging services.

By DAVE GUSSOW and JULES ALLEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001


Phone messaging is one of the hot trends in Europe and Japan, and U.S. phone companies are following that lead. AT&T has its Text Messaging service available in the Tampa Bay region, and Verizon Wireless will offer its Mobile Messenger service beginning March 1.

Messages usually can be sent only to other phones on the same network, so an AT&T phone can't message a Verizon model. However, both also offer e-mail, which can overcome that barrier.

For $4.95 a month, in addition to whatever calling plan is chosen, people can send and receive up to 500 e-mail and text messages on AT&T's service. Verizon Wireless' service will cost $2.99 for 100 messages or $7.99 for 600. AT&T messages can be up to 150 characters; Verizon's, 120 characters.

Both require phones designed for text messaging. Verizon will use a phone made by Kyocera. We tested AT&T's Nokia 8260 cell phone, which weighs 3.4 ounces, measures 4 inches long and costs $200. There are two ways to compose text messages. Like most phones, each key on the keyboard has three or more letters on it. Press the key once for the first letter, twice for the second and so forth.

Or you can use a feature called predictive text input that makes composing messages a little easier. You spell out the letters of the words but don't press the keys multiple times. While you're tapping, the phone tries to guess the word you want. It's quite accurate once you get used to it.

As for the phone, we have agreed to disagree. Jules says the 8260 is one of the best wireless phones he has used. Dave reports numerous complaints about sound quality from people he called using the 8260.

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