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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 16:36 GMT
Mobile phones: Your questions
Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy answers your teasers
This is a transcript of the question and answer session on Friday's Working Lunch.

Your queries were tackled by Eddie Murphy of the Communications Research Network.

Why can't you buy a basic unsophisticated mobile phone now? That's from a Mr B. Nash. He says most people don't want a phone to send and receive video clips, download music, play games and download football highlights.

This is a bugbear with many people.

We are driven by the mobile manufacturers competing fiercely with each other to attract customers in a highly competitive market. This means that features and functions are added to mobiles as fast as technology will allow.

Unfortunately, for those bewildered by the technology, the economics of manufacturing make it difficult for their desires to be taken into account. It is cheaper for the manufacturers to manufacture only the most technologically advanced phones rather than to have scaled down models for the basic voice user.

Having said that, even feature rich phones can be easy to use if they are intuitive to use and behave in predictable ways. Some of the major manufacturers more basic phones are relatively easy to use. One tip is to get a phone you like and stick with it even if your mobile provide keeps trying to foist a fancier phone on you in exchange for contract extensions.

A recent survey says that if you're one of the thousands of people who use a 'pay as you go' mobile phone deal - then you're probably being ripped off. It surveyed 120,000 people and found they were paying up to 600% more for their calls than consumers who were on contract. Is there truth in that?

The survey it is absolutely right.

Unless you are a fairly light user of your mobile, you are usually better off having a contract than paying as you go.

This is because pay as you go tariffs are designed for fairly light users with no monthly fee but a very high per-minute charge for use. If you use them intensively this high per-minute rate soon mounts up and you end up paying more than a customer on contract would for the same volume of calls. The only note of caution I would offer is that for relatively light users who sometimes use their phones intensively (say once or twice a year) then they might be better off sticking with pay as you go. A good general rule of thumb is that if you are paying 20 or more per month on credit, then take a hard look at contract offers - you will probably save money.

Chris Bard's daughter is a student. She bought a phone on contract. She transferred her Pay-as-you-Go number, which she has had for about 3 years, into the contract, as all her friends know this number. Because she was a bit worried about the cost (35/month) - she took out the insurance they offered, which allowed her to cancel the contract at any time - which cost an extra 29.95 for three months. After a couple of months, she decided she couldn't afford the phone and went back in to cancel, to be told she could, but would lose her number. Any advice?

This is all about the small print in contracts. It is very dull but very important.

I do not have access to the mobile and insurance contracts so I cannot give a definitive answer to either question. I can, however, speculate that, even when covered by insurance, the early termination of the contract represents a breach of the terms of the mobile contract. Under those circumstances your rights to the number would be forfeit because of the breach.

The insurance contract should specify the terms for payment and what happens when the insurance is invoked. A read over the terms of this insurance could show whether you agreed to such behaviour when you signed the contract. If there is any doubt about whether you agreed to the terms shout loudly until you get some concession from the company.

Steven Hodges has a question abut 0870 and 0845 numbers. For a long time, O2 has been the only network he's aware of which includes these numbers in the call allowance in the contract. Steve thinks this is great value for money. He asks if any of the other networks offer 0870 or 0845 numbers as part of the inclusive call allowance? Steve goes on to say that he's begun to see lots of adverts for an O2 'B4B' business tariff. As far as he can tell, this tariff does not include 0870 numbers in the inclusive call allowance. Is this correct, he asks, and do you think O2 are trying to subtly do away with this benefit?

When O2 says 'any network' in its price plans it does not restrict users from including 0870 or 0845 numbers which it treats the same as a call to a standard landline.

Other operators do not have a clear statement that they do allow these numbers to be included in bundled minutes.

Where it is not said that these minutes are included in bundles you should assume they are not. I am an Orange customer and they are not included in my bundled minutes.

A look at the B4B tariffs on O2s website says bundled minutes are to standard UK landlines, which is the terminology used by other operators who exclude 0845 and 0870 numbers.

This would indicate that O2 have shifted on including 0845 and 0870 numbers in this package. Whether this is evidence of a more general trend I couldn't say at the moment.

Another survey has said the number of mobile phone users accessing the internet on their handsets is rising.

Over 40 million people used their phones for downloads and browsing the mobile internet in the UK during the third quarter of 2006. Apparently a WAP-enabled phone is the second most popular digital device to have after a PC.

All of this is true. WAP-enabled phones are very common.

However the proportion of these phones that are used for the advanced services on offer is much lower.

Technology already allows the highly informed and technically-literate user to do a lot on mobile phones but usually at pretty high prices for usage.

The recent announcement by 3 of an 'all you can eat' data package which operates at high speed and is similar in price structure for fixed broadband access could be very interesting. However, we have to wait until early December to know what the price will be.

Staying with pay as you go, Ed Abram says he thinks Tesco Pay as You Go is the best Mobile Deal for a low volume user who uses their mobile abroad for texts and calls. Can you compare and suggest any better mobile deals without a contract and ongoing fixed monthly charges?

I cannot say what is best for a customer without knowing an awful lot more about the calls and texts made by the user. Also any advice I give might be out of date as I do not have fully up to date information on all of the packages available.

There are price comparison sites such as www.uSwitch.com or www.pricerunner.co.uk and others which will allow you to make more detailed comparisons. However, new deals are common and the comparison websites struggle to keep up with all the developments just as I do.

Sion Jones has just moved house and has a mobile phone contract with O2. He checked their coverage on the internet and found that his mobile was compatible at the new location. But when he arrived in his new home he found he had no signal even though it stated on their website there was coverage there. What are his options now? Have they breached any conditions in his contract?

When you input your postcode on the operator's website, you get a prediction of coverage. A prediction is all that you get, not a guarantee. If coverage is really essential then go to the location and try it out rather than relying on a prediction.

You can contact O2 and say that you aren't covered in spite of their prediction and they may be able to give you some information about temporary outages or plans to improve coverage.

If that doesn't get you what you need then you need to switch operator (assuming another operator does cover your new house). Before signing up with another operator, get a friend who is on their network to come to your house and test the coverage.

Paul Hunt has a Nokia mobile phone - a 6131. Being of a certain age he finds it difficult to navigate through the many options, and frequently gets lost. He asked Nokia if they could supply a menu tree, so at least he could find out where everything was supposed to be. They told him they did not supply this, although they did for older models. Can you suggest where he could get one? - it really would be useful.

I must admit that I thought that Nokia still did this.

However, I checked the manual for my latest phone and you are right - they do not any more. This is a feature which, like you, I used to find quite useful particularly when I was new to mobiles. However, it does limit the option of updating the menu options through software upgrades or offering different menu options to different users. I suspect that his might be why they have stopped doing this.

Bob from Huddersfield asks if it will ever be possible to incorporate a smoke detector inside a mobile phone? Most people keep them by there bed even at night.

This is an intriguing idea. However it has two flaws which make me predict that it will not happen:

Firstly, smoke rises. Therefore, detectors need to be high up in rooms (ideally located on ceilings as they are now - this allows maximum warning between the detector detecting a problem and the room being dangerously full of smoke). A mobile phone with a smoke detector on a bedside table could allow a room to fill with dangerous smoke to the level of the bedside table before sounding the alarm. That could be too late.

And another consideration is that the current generation of smoke detectors operate by having a small (and harmless) radioactive source in the detector with a radiation detector located near the source. The alarm is activated when smoke comes between the two reducing the rate at which the detector receives radiation. The radiation source is harmless because the radiation does not penetrate more than a few inches through the air. This is fine on your landing ceiling - I'm not sure it would be acceptable in your pocket if located in your mobile phone.




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