How To Buy Cell Phones, An Online Guide

Author Chinavasion Marketing 7.9.2009. | 23:31


By Michael Wong

I hate shopping. Especially cellphone shopping.

Being overwhelmed by the sheer choice of brand and models. Not to mention deciding whether something is a necessary feature or an “oh my gosh this phone does that” feature, which I am sure to regret at a later stage.

You see, I’ve spent the last two weekends mobile phone shopping. I even think I have come up with a way to determine to cut down time spent deciding which feature are important and which phone I should buy.

Why Am I Looking For A Phone?

This all started in the middle of August when I lost my Nokia 6300 in a taxi at three in the morning (don’t ask).

I was desperate to get a phone to replace it very quickly so I bought the Nokia 1208 at a supermarket counter the next morning.

The difference between the two phones was huge. The 6300 had everything I needed. An amazing interface. Solid feel push buttons. A great 2MP camera. A sound recorder to take verbal notes.

I hate the 1208 because it is the exact opposite to the 6300, all it does is make and receive calls.

I get a little angry when people tell me “Oh who cares as long as it makes and receives calls.”

That’s like telling me that my phone might not be pretty, but at least it has a nice personality, or that it’s not about the size.

But in saying that I’m not everybody so what I need might not be the same as the next person.

Defining Purpose

In the last 14 days, I’ve looked at and played with at least 30 different models. From Apple’s iPhone 3G to the HTC Touch Pro 2 (I would marry this phone if it was legal to marry a machine). I’ve played with the Sony Ericsson C905, have tried out the new Chinavasion Odyssey and the Nokia N97.

3g-iphone c905

All of these phones are good for different things and different people so which one would be right for me.

Firstly I have to decide what my phone personality is. Am I a:

  • traveler
  • media fan
  • commuter
  • citizen journalist
  • business person
  • hipster
  • child of a protective parent

Deciding which category I fall into most will change what I look for in a phone and I might fall into more than one group.

So what will a member in each group look for in a phone?

A traveler will look for a phone that will work in many places. It might be hardy so it can take the knocks and it might have media functions to keep them entertained.

A commuter will be looking for a compact phone that can fit into a pocket or a purse easily. It will need to be easy to use with one hand and should have some media functions to keep them entertained.

A citizen journalist (or a chronologist) will want a decent amount of memory an ok camera and an ok video recording function.

A business person will want something that they can send and receive emails on and, perhaps keep them connected to their work and personal lives while keeping them separate at the same time.

A hipster will want something that looks cool. They will need the latest functions on their phone.

The child of a protective parent will eventually get (because lets face facts. The parent will be the one buying the phone) will have a white list of people they can call, a blacklist of people they can’t and a long life battery.

The media fan will need to have a phone that can handle MP3 files, MP4 files, have a big screen, be able to play several unusual formats and have plenty of memory. It might even need to have a good battery.

I guess if I took my own habits into account I am a little of a traveler, something of a commuter, a little of a media fan and a little of a citizen journalist.

So what are the other features and how are they going to apply to me?

Deciphering Phone Features

Going shopping for a phone without knowing what you want it to do is like going into the grocery store on an empty stomach.

Everything looks tempting and you end up overpaying for things you don’t need — like 10 boxes of Blueberry Pop-Tarts.

So here’s a look at some of the more common features and aspects of the cell phone and how they apply to me, and maybe you.

Dual Band, Tri-Band, Quad Band, How Many Bands Do You Need

No, you’re not planning the second Woodstock, you’re considering how many frequencies you would like it to run on.

All phones, regardless of whether they are GSM, CDMA or something else work on certain frequencies and certain CDMA and GSM frequencies work in different countries.

To deal with this most cell phone makers (well those who deal with the GSM network anyway) make phones that use multiple bands.

If you don’t plan on traveling, than a dual-band GSM phone will suit you just fine. But good luck finding one.

Most of the phones being produced these days are either tri-band or quad band GSM models (850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz are the four global GSM frequencies that will allow your phone to work anywhere there is GSM cellphone service).

For me, nothing less than quad band GSM will do, thankfully there’s plenty of choice for this.



But should I go the extra step and look for a phone that is EDGE or 3G capable?

Do You Need Internet Access?

Read more about 3G at A Simple Guide To High Speed Wireless Internet

A hipster would love a internet capable phone, as would a commuter, a traveler and a business person.

Internet access comes in several flavors: 3G, EDGE and Wi-Fi

Personally, I have no need for a 3G phone.

In China, the 3G rollout is slow and even when it rolls out I don’t intend to use it because I don’t like the idea of surfing the net on a phone using the cell provider’s network.

Well, I really don’t like the idea of paying the occasionally heavy data use charges.

I’d much rather use Wi-Fi.

The only problem is that most of the big name manufacturers like Apple and Nokia are selling their smart phones in China with Wi-Fi disabled. That is part of the agreement for entry into the Chinese cellphone market.

But that’s not to say that there’s no Wi-Fi phones out there and I do want access to the internet.


The CVDQ M56 and the CVDQ M50 Both examples of WiFi Phones

So Quad-band and Wi-Fi are very important to me.

Besides it’s next to impossible to surf the mobile web, but I like the idea of checking my gmail account or looking things up on Wikipedia on the go.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want a super internet friendly phone like the Nokia N900.

Power surfing requires a full sized keyboard and a mouse. It requires a Firefox browser with greasemonkey icons. And a 24 inch screen!

Single SIM or Duel Dual SIM Phone


Whether you want your prospective phone will be able to handle two SIM cards, one SIM cards, or no SIM cards is a question only you can answer.

Although business people and travelers will always fall into this group.

Of course this is only a question that applies to the people who are hooked into the GSM network.

Although I don’t understand why someone would want to be attached to a cell phone provider via a Draconian-binding 2 to 3 year contract agreements.

I am getting more interested in the possibility of Dual-SIM. I test a lot of DUAL-SIM phones each day as a part of my job here at Chinavasion.

I’ve never owned a dual-SIM phone but it would be useful.

On weekends, I go to Hong Kong where I have a different SIM card. Normally I have to switch the SIM cards whenever I go through the border and switch them back when I return. I suppose it would make things a lot easier.


So let’s put Dual-SIM on the list…

Touchscreen Or Not To Touchscreen?

I love and hate touchscreens.

Poking at icons and sliding your finger over a screen is as easy and as fun as playing with your food.

But I hate getting my touchscreen all oily with finger grease and, because I have big fingers, I don’t like scrolling with a touchscreen.

This is one of my biggest objections with the iPhone.

Thankfully other phone makers have gotten around this problem by adding a side button which allows you to scroll by pressing a up and down button.

Overall however, I’m for touchscreen.

So let’s look at our shopping list so far:

  • Quad Band
  • Wi-Fi
  • Dual SIM
  • Touchscreen

But would everybody feel the same way as me?

Quite possibly. Touchscreen is one of the most commonly looked for features in phones by our customers.

The only people who wouldn’t want it are those who are going to be putting their phones through a lot of physical abuse.

Get A Phone With A Camera?

This is another of those functions that will probably be helpful for every single group on my list, especially the citizen journalist.

These technologies may seem out of place on a cellphone. Some people argue that cameras on cellphones are stupid because most of the time the phone camera sucks and it does not have a optical zoom.

This is true, but if you think about it you aren’t trying to take award-winning photos with your mobile phone camera.

I used my 6300 mobile phone camera all the time to record URLs from magazine articles I wanted to read, products I wanted to buy and I’d visit when I had time, products I wanted to buy, and people I wanted to remember. I asked the people before I took a photo of them.

And, since we are living in the YouTube generation, a camcorder is a very convenient tool to capture the next big viral video hit (think lots of prestige, fame, or $$)

So yes and yes to camera and camcorder.

Productivity Tools, Are They Really Productive?

This is something that is really only useful for the business person, and perhaps the commuter.

Now me I’m not a big productivity guy. I live out of my gmail account, so as long as my phone has Wi-Fi I’m good.

But if I did want to become very productive I think I’d want to have access to a full qwerty keyboard because, what am I going to do…. type out a multipage document with my thumbs?


When it comes to phones and writing emails touchscreen is meh, the qwerty keyboard is better

MP3 And MP4 Capability

But multimedia that’s another story. I love music. Music is my life.

For me a phone with a decent MP3 player is crucial. It doesn’t have to be an amazing MP3 player because I have no intention of playing FLAC, WAV, WMA files on my phone unlike many multimedia junkies out there.

I guess that puts me in the category of many commuters and travelers.

Another thing that is important with a music phone is it’s ability to allow you to have MP3 ringtones.

Your own ringtone tells people “yeah I’m different. I’m cool!”

And if the phone is going to play videos the touchscreen needs to be big and it needs to be able to play AVIs.

This is something a commuter might need. Because, lets face it, looking at what you’ve seen twice a day for the past five months – two years isn’t that interesting

Phone Design

It might seem a little backward to look at the design last but, really, if you think about it, it plays less of a roll than some of the other things on the list.

Yes the item needs to be nice to hold and easy to use but after that it’s really down to personal opinion.

Hipsters are going to want whatever fashionable. Commuters are going to want something slim and small enough to be used by one hand, citizens journalists are going to want something that has a camera that is easy to point things at and travelers are going to want something that can handle the knocks.

Currently, phones come in the candy bar, flip, and slide form factors. One or two may twist about a central fulcrum, or be a hybrid of the first three forms, but generally that’s it.

My general rule for phones from having used mobile phones for the last 20 years is the less moving parts the better!

I am of the opinion that antennas that you have to extend will eventually get snapped or broken and phones you have to flip on a hinge will eventually get snapped or broken.

But that’s not to say that is the case for everybody and some people are careful enough with the phone to keep flip phones for a reasonable time.

So yes, I’ve been a fan of the candy bar form since my Motorola Star Tac snapped on me one fine day back in 98…

So, to sum up the phone I am looking for has:

  • Quad Band
  • Wi-Fi
  • Dual SIM
  • Touchscreen
  • A Media Player
  • A Candybar form factor (or design)

And let’s not forget it also looks cool or 1337

So, unfortunately, my functional Nokia 1208 doesn’t meet up with my requirements.

It was cheap and now I hate it like racism.

Your cellphone is your lifeline and life device. Don’t just go for something that will enhance your lifestyle.

That means that the phone which suits me isn’t’ going to suit a businessperson, a traveling businessperson, a backpacker or a shackled teenager.

But it will be just as important to me.

So, keep an eye on the blog. Because, in the very near future, I will start looking at some real phones and choose my replacement for this lame Nokia 1208.

Author Chinavasion Marketing 7.9.2009. | 23:31
Write a comment


  1. EMMANUEL September 9, 01:00


  2. Donny September 15, 03:53

    can i pay by western union?

  3. Peter September 18, 16:08

    All my sales are in New Zealand. Will you send me New Zealand competeble chargers?

  4. borwornluk September 27, 10:02

    If I want to order. I have to pay some fees before.
    and how much …

  5. Jane November 18, 05:24

    I have some questions about the Odyssey:

    – Does the phone support SDHC-cards.
    – It says that the phone supports 16GB memory cards. Doesnt ChinaVison have any bigger cards than 2 GB ?
    – How much does extra batteries costs, and can I order them together with the phone?


  6. Sergio November 23, 11:55

    Dear Chinavasion friends, a great feature for a cellphone should be hsdpa support.

    It is a very important feature to cellphones in Brazil and many other countries where this technology is very popular, either it should sell a lot.

    Just a though, but think about this…

    Best regards from Brazil

  7. Tash November 24, 15:49

    I am from New Zealand and I am curious about the Odyssey. I notice that it has 2 cameras. Does this have the capability of video calling? If this phone doesn’t support video calling, then do any other phones at ChinaVasion support video calling that has Dual sim capability? What is the MP of both the front n back camera? Also, what is the internal memory and to what size can the external memory go up to? Looking forward to your reply.

  8. brandon December 1, 10:01

    I got a question about the Odyssey Battery life. How long is the talk time? I already ordered some phones…welll The thunder also. What is the Talk time for those two phones?

  9. Grace December 2, 02:54

    I would like to know why you never mention a bluetooth? when you set for loud speakers you have to use more batteries and you can talk shorter time – not with the blue tooth.

  10. roselyn December 2, 05:05

    odyssey has “In Call Background Noise” can i switch it off the background noise,i have second thought to buy this mobile cause may be its to thick.

  11. annie December 2, 14:07


  12. roselyn December 3, 02:08

    how loud the incaller background noise do you think it will affect the caller im afraid may be it couldnt hear me because of the caller noise background…

  13. Brandon December 10, 06:17

    Hello again…now that i have my Odyssey and Thunder cell phones, How do i get, and install more apps? any special way to install?

  14. Diana January 16, 03:35

    I would like to know more about the Odyssey cam. You say that the rezolution is 640×240. That means about 0.3 mgp. Can you put a bigger one on the Odyssey, and if yoe, how much would it cost. Thank you

  15. Alb0 January 17, 22:52

    Hello, i really like this phone..
    I’d like to know, more about shipping in my country “Kosovo” ? Does your company support this ?
    Kosovo it’s an independent state, but it’s not reconized by China… About 4 months ago, i have recived a mail from:) china..
    By writing my adress like this:
    Postal Code : postal code here
    City : My city
    Province : Kosovo
    Country : Albania
    (this means via albania, cause we speak the same language, we are the same people, but we are 2 countries)

    All i wanted to say is that, do your product(this phone) will come on my adress 🙂 if i buy it now ?

    Best Regards,

  16. Tony January 22, 06:57

    With the greatest respect to Michael..can I rely on any recommendation of the Odyssey as equipment sold by the company he represents. I am very tempted by the phone and its functions but would like to see some independant reviews. Is that possible?or have I misunderstood his position. No disrespect intended

  17. Andreas February 7, 13:27

    I bought the Odyssey and very good phone but i can’t use wifi to any of the wifi spots i tried………

    Pls help

  18. Ola February 11, 02:11

    Can you sync the Odyssey with Microsoft Office; calendar, contacts and so on.. ?

  19. haydenmo March 4, 23:42

    How can I check email and surf the Internet at the same time i’m texting sms?

    Is there a way to minimize the internet application and to see another aplications on the phone?

  20. allan March 9, 08:41

    can anybody tell me on how to order this odessey phone.I don’t have a credit card.But i could very well send a money order-please anyone help me out with this?on how to order step by step.

  21. Paula July 28, 01:47

    I bought the odyssey cellphone last month and I need to read .pdf files in the Ebook section, but I still don’t know how I can do this. Please help me!

  22. Adrian August 4, 15:31

    Dear Paula,

    Your phone will read .txt files, so you should convert your material to this format to read it on the phone.

    Thanks for the contact.

  23. Leo Sigh November 23, 17:38

    Wow, what great information. I’m going to be in China early next year and plan on buying a phone, but had no idea many of them had the Wi-Fi disabled. Good to know. Thanks.

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