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Upgrade your low-tech cellular phone

January 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Every time you turn around, there's something new cell phones can do. If you don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars or more for the top-of-the-line models, you can still soup up the cell phone without spending a dime.Cell phones used to be just for talking.

Now, unless your phone can play games, music, or send and receive e-mail, it's old hat. But you can add some high-tech gadgetry for free.

We're now up to 250 million cell phone fanatics in this country and counting. But for many it's no longer simply about talk and text.

"The device you hold in your hand is increasingly becoming like the computer that's on your desk," said Joe Farren, CTIA, The Wireless Association.

That's because so-called "smart" phones are loaded with all kinds of software applications. Have a phone that doesn't make the grade? As long as your phone has Web access, there are ways to "educate" your low-tech model.

"What people don't know is all the communication apps," said Sascha Segan, PC Magazine. "For instance, there are Web browsers, e-mail programs, instant messengers, programs for sharing your photos."

Along with applications that give you direct access to sports scores, weather forecasts, favorite Web sites -- even programs to help you shop.

"You can download these applications over the Internet, usually through your phones built-in primitive Web browser, install them, and then run them from a menu and your phone will be running things just like a little personal computer," said Segan.

You can get applications through your carrier, although often there's a flat monthly fee. And there are lots of third-party Web sites that offer free downloads, but you have to pay for a data plan on your phone.

Businessman Steve Mosca never thought to use his cell phone for anything but calls, until he got turned on to all the possibilities once he signed up for a base Internet plan.

"I have access to an array of applications I was able to download onto my existing cell phone," said Mosca. "The communication is phenomenal. I can do quick e-mails -- yes, no -- I can respond back to my customers from anywhere with my cell phone. It's been great."

"Be careful about the applications you download," said Farren. "Always trust the content you download because you certainly have to be concerned about things like 'spam.'"

Want to jazz up your phone?

There are several Web sites that will help you do it for free.

GetJar.com

WidSets

Or just Google "cell phone applications"-- there are numerous sites.


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