Apparently There Are Still People Who Have Analog Cellphones

Do you have an analog phone? No, not you. That guy over there with the Betamax. You do? Well, you should just accept that time and technology marches forward and upgrade your phone. The old analog system is going bye-bye next year, and Cingular is charging you $5 a month for no reason other than you still have an old crappy phone. Should they do this? Probably not. But they are.

ABC7 found some outraged analog phone owners to interview about the topic:

John Borg: “I have like eight bills here that show the charge and that times a lot of customers is a lot of money.”

Ed Wolf found out upgrading also means a new contract that costs more and gives fewer minutes.

Ed Wolf: “There’s probably a lot of other customers in the same situation as me and they don’t even realize it.

Sadly for Ed, the inexorable march of time includes him.

Those lower monthly rates are no longer offered, but Cingular will give perks like free roaming, national coverage, and they promise fewer dropped calls.

Cingular also offered Ed Wolf a free razor phone if he upgrades. They offered John Borg 200 extra minutes, but Wolf says he’d rather hang on to his simple phone.

Ed Wolfe: “to me a phone is a phone. i don’t need all these bells and whistles.

And Borg?

John Borg: “I switched to a new provider.”

One of the big impacts is a lot of customers who were grandfathered in with low monthly rates are going to lose them when analog system ends next year. You may recall that was allowed by an FCC ruling four years ago and this is one of those ripple effects.

We sort of feel bad for these people, but upgrading your phone is not the end of the world. Also, you can tell Cingular to go piss up a rope and get T-Mobile, Alltel, Sprint or Verizon.

Cellphones aren’t like rent controlled apartments, guys. If you have an old analog phone, don’t wait until they shut it off next year to upgrade! Read our Confessions series on cellphones and get out there and negotiate! —MEGHANN MARCO

Cingular Charging New Fees To Some Customers [ABC7]
(Photo:Mr. Bill)

RELATED:How Joe Saved Hundreds Of Dollars Using Confessions Of A Cellphone Sales Rep

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  1. TexasScout says:

    DO NOT! I repeat: DO NOT get rid of your analog phone!!!!! There is NO digital (free and clear my ass!) phone that has the range or the clarity of an analog phone. Yes they are going away, HOWEVER the phone company is REQUIRED to have one analog connection one each cell sight. It will work just fine for years to come. It may cost more, but it will work.

  2. Jozef says:

    If it ain’t broken, why fix it? I don’t have an analog phone, but my phone is nearly 4 years old and the reason I still resist Verizon’s attempts to re-sign me for a new contract is that I can’t find a new mobile phone anymore. All they offer now are minicomputers with functions I’ve never felt a need for, and the phones break when you drop them from two feet. I assume it’s the same with analog phone owners – there’s switching cost included, such as learning curve for the new interface.

  3. kerry says:

    I was really sad when I gave up my analog phone so I could change to a national plan, but in the end I was pretty happy with my decision. I will say this – research the hell out of your new phone and play with a working version (or take advantage of 14-day return policies) before upgrading. It took three phones before I found one that really worked for me.
    My mom was also very sad to give up her analog phone this past fall, but seems pretty happy with the GSM Nokia she picked to replace it.
    Don’t get too overwhelmed with the bells and whistles, most basic phones still function best as phones, and do everything else sort of half-assed. If you don’t plan on ever using the extra features, you probably won’t ever realize they’re there.

  4. FLConsumer says:

    I still keep an old analog cell phone in my emergency pack. Whenever all hell breaks loose, the analog channels are wide open with no one using them. Sound quality on it’s tinny and has the occasional burst of static, but that beats getting a “Network Busy” message on my screen when a phone call absolutely HAS to get out.

  5. Munkeyhatecleen says:

    Unfortunately, a lot of rural areas are still analog signal only.. My old Verizon phone was tri-mode and got great signal at my parent’s house in the sticks but my newer digi-only signal is teh loss. :(

  6. chimmike says:

    Sorry analog fans, but why should the cellphone company have to keep archaic technology around and keep paying for upkeep for the tiny minority of cellphone owners who refuse to upgrade? Just beacuse you like 1980s cellphone technology doesn’t mean they have to keep providing it to you…they’re a business, not a government agency!

    Upgrade yer damn phones. I don’t care if you don’t want the mini computer, there are super cheap, super basic phones out there you can get.

    Oh, and I never owned an analog phone that had decent clarity or reception, and they certainly had major dropped call issues.

    My GSM phone has never dropped a call on me, is extremely clear, and much smaller than those analog bricks.

    Welcome to 2007! (that’s right, it IS 2007 people)

  7. EditorPerson says:

    Probably a stupid question, but: what exactly is an analog phone? Is it just a phone that connects to a phone jack, as opposed to a cell phone?

  8. LAGirl says:

    a few years ago, when i was still with Sprint, i had a phone that was digital/analog. if i went into an area that didn’t get Sprint reception, it would roam into analog mode so i could get a signal. i had to pay roaming fees, which sucked. but, it was great to be able to get a signal when i really needed it. like the time we were driving through the middle of nowhere in New Mexico and i needed to call my mom on her birthday.

    now, with my Cingular GSM Razr, if i get into an area with no signal, i am SOL.

  9. LAGirl says:

    @EditorPerson: now, now…there is no such thing as a stupid question! it was the original cell phone technology, before digital (no cords):

    “Definition: The Analog cell phone technology was the first one to appear, in the 1980’s. Analog service does not provide advanced services such as Short Messages or downloadable ringtones. Additionally, during a conversation on an analog network, users may hear scratches and &static& noises that are not usually heard on digital phones.

    Today, all phones on the market are digital, but in North-America, a certain share of the territory, in general rural areas, is still only working in analog mode. To provide users with a larger coverage, either digital or analog, some cell phone makers still include analog roaming capability in their phones. Not all digital phones have that feature, which is usefull to those traveling out of the most populated areas.”

    http://cellphones.about.com/od/cell_phone_glossary/g/analo

  10. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Hmm…I heard that any cell phone, even without service, can dial 911, correct? So if analog phones tend to have more range with their connection, as well as the example FLConsumer posted, it’d be a good idea to keep an analog cell phone for emergencys (like getting stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the desert).

  11. Canadian Impostor says:

    If the cell phone networks are completely gridlocked with calls something tells me you don’t need to call 911 because someone else already called in the emergency, and even if you do need 911 they probably don’t have the resources to help you.

  12. Vinny says:

    I wanna know what digital plan costs more money and offers fewer minutes than any analog plan offered by any carrier in this country.

    Seriously.

    T-Mobile, for example, offers 1000 minutes for $40.

    I’d love to know what analog plan even moves into that ball park, let alone that city.

  13. scavenger says:

    People are forgetting about car phones. I drive a 13 year old Lexus SC-400, still in perfect condition, but this means my car phone will no longer function. It’s not that I don’t have a cell phone, but having the car phone integrated into the car’s speakers with the mouthpiece of the steering wheel is/was very helpful.

  14. shdwsclan says:

    Difference between analogue and digital service.
    Analogue actually trasmits an old-timey phone signal throught the air, instead of a wire.
    Basicaly, source, destination, and the voice, all of which are sound files. You can actually use sound generators to get free long distance.
    Also, you can listen into cell phone calls with radio scanners.

    Digital cellular service sends packets and actual data through the air. Source is digital, destination is digital, and even voice is digital, thats why people complain about….Well, all you analogue idiots…..you can actually turn on the PCM voice codec [same as cds and better than analogue] and even get the same battery life as the analogue phone. As i said, the bottom line is, you get the same battery life as analogue….

    Anyways, you can get a digital brick to replace you analogue brick in your lexus. Brick, being the motorolla brick….

    Its not really about analogue phones, its about the circuitry inside. Yes, older phones do have actual amps in there which gives them better reception than a phone with a printed circuit amplifier like a razr….but you loose efficiency[battery life] and they wiegh a lot….

    The problem with digital systems is the actual recievers. Cheap phones use cheap antennas, especially if the antenna is built in and squashed.

    Wifi is no different…..
    You get a thinkpad with 2-3 antenna inside the screen or you get dell hell, with 1 antenna at the bottom of the screen and 1 somewhere in the keyboard…

  15. jurgis says:

    @TexasScout: I don’t know what things are like in Texas, but analog phones have horrible static and noise levels in cities. They are also expensive (I had an analog phone in high school that was $60 a month for 30 minutes). Analog signals are also completely unsecured. I can listen to your calls via scanner. Not to mention the higher power consumption as the signal is not encoded (which compresses it greatly, this is part of why the service costs more).

    The only people I have met that are attatched to it, have those bizarre $5 a month $.50 a minute plans that they “only use for emergencies”. But these are luddites of the highest order.

    It’s like complaining that your dial-up service no longer supports your 400 baud modem or that you can’t get new betamax cassettes.

  16. J.J. says:

    My father uses Analog phones in his job. He works in the Oil Field, and when you are 20 miles from the nearest “town” a digital phone will not do you much good.

    Currently he has 2 Analog BAG phones. He used to have a third phone and decided to upgrade. Now it takes 2 different new cell phones to replace it. Sometimes one works, other times the other, most times neither phone.

    Cell phones are used in rural areas and nothing will give you reception like a 3watt bag phone.

  17. mlally says:

    I am one of those “luddites” who like analog. I live in, literally, the middle of nowhere. Since the cell phone companies have started switching their towers to digital my cell phone reception has gone to shit. Calls are dropped much more often and the static and “are you there, can you hear me” have gone up tremendously.

    Just because you are lucky that you live where the companies actually care about your reception doesn’t mean that the rest of us should suffer.

  18. madktdisease says:

    Yeah, so I just got a RAZR when I went back to Verizon, because I like Verizon’s coverage area. Then I went on vacation last week and had no signal outside the Boston area. Nowhere in Upstate NY, not in Toronto, NOT IN NY OR NJ. My phone is a paperweight outside of Boston. My husband’s free POS worked fine. I had no idea this would happen, but he says it’s because there’s no analog roaming with the RAZR. I’m so steamed that I got ripped.

  19. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    No digital phone today has the range of a 3-watt analog bag-phone..but alas, analog phones are a dying breed and it’s not profitable for providers to maintain analog equipment for a fraction of users.

    There’s also the issue of space. One analog call ties up one RF frequency pair, whereas digital phones can cram something like 16 (or more) calls through that same frequency pair using TDMA or CDMA multiplexing.

    Furthermore, as of February 18th, 2008, the FCC is actually forcing providers to shut down the analog system because of this inefficiency. (Although “forcing” is probably the wrong word, because I’m sure the huge and powerful lobby that the wireless providers maintained probably bought off…err…”influenced” the FCC to pass this mandate).

    But hey, folks…AMPS analog service has been around since 1983….25 years isn’t a bad run, and considering we started with portable phones that were the size of a loaf of bread and a battery life of 20 minutes, I’d say it’s time to move on. Some people would argue that vinyl LP’s sound better than CD’s and MP3’s, but it’s just not economically viable to mass-produce LP’s anymore either even though a few audiophiles with turntables and vacuum tube amplifiers claim they sound better than CD’s.

  20. GeekChicCanuck says:

    My parents still have one analog cell phone and they are not “certified Luddites”. Like scavenger, they have a perfectly functioning car with a phone in it that is just going to stop working.

    They could pay to get it replaced, but that would cost several thousand dollars – for a phone that is only used in emergencies. Fortunately, they do have regular digital handsets – but it will definitely be a kludge in the car.

  21. weave says:

    I read somewhere that earlier OnStar systems used analog only and will cease to work after this change as well.

  22. @J.J.: As someone who owns three digital cell phones now to replace one 3watt bag phone, I fully concur.

    Some of you should escape outside of the metropolis’ from time to time.

  23. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve not tried one of these yet (trying to get ahold of one) but here’s a bag phone for CDMA:
    http://www.motorola.com/governmentandenterprise/id_705i/en

    I know Alltel carries the phone, but have yet to see one at the local Alltel store YET. Maybe when analog is turned off, the people with the early 1990’s bag-phones will start ordering these.

    Well, all you analogue idiots…..you can actually turn on the PCM voice codec [same as cds and better than analogue] and even get the same battery life as the analogue phone. As i said, the bottom line is, you get the same battery life as analogue…

    I’ve NEVER seen a cell phone which supports PCM audio. More importantly, I’ve never seen a tower which does. On some phones, you can increase the bitrate, but there’s still data reduction. With regards to battery life, the digital phones operate their transmitters at nearly 1/15th the output power of the older analog phones. The cell co’s love it because they can cram more people on a single tower, BUT, forget being able to use your phone in extremely remote areas.

    The other thing — analog works! No phones locking up, no incompatibility issues because the only tower near you is owned by another company that decided to go with a different technology. Analog is analog. When all else has failed, an analog signal will still work. I’ve been through enough hurricanes and disasters to see what can & can’t handle extreme conditions. Analog circuits generally are more resistant to adverse conditions, both RF and electrical.

    As an example, the elevator controls at my condo building date back to a design from 1964. They’ve yet to fail after 43 years of continuous operation. It’s all just a series of relays and timers. Because of this, they’re immune to power glitches and lightning strikes. Contrast this to the brand new fire alarm system which took a nice lightning hit (same power source as the elevators) and croaked. Analog requires better engineering to work well, BUT it’s as close as we’re going to get to perfection. Digital just tries to hide the imperfections and hopes you won’t notice.

  24. Hoss says:

    Excuse me? I got an analog phone. It’s a neat Nokia 8260. I’m keeping it because I’m grandfathered in an old cingular plan from a company I have since left. The plan is $9.99/mo — they now charge $4.99/mo to stay on the analog system. Cingular says they will not upgrade the phone — so screw them, I’ll keep it and pay a huge $15/mo for cell service (of course someday they will discountinue analog altogether)

  25. TexasScout says:

    Jurgis, everything you said is true. Static, high power etc. However, an old “bag phone” has a THREE WATT transmitter! Digital phones are MILLIwatts. I will put up with a little static to be able to make and recieve calls any day. Sure they cost more, but if you MUST communicate (emergency workers) it’s the only way to go.

  26. joest73 says:

    Lat year, we finally dropped our old Cell One -> 360 Comm->Alltell->BAM->Verizon analog (AMPS) plan that we retained beause we couldn’t find a plan that offered unlimited nights (8pm) and weekends for $19.99/month.

    We switched to pre-paid T-mobile. Put $100 and your minutes are good for 1yr. Add another $10 before the year ends and you get another year or service.

    Ironic though…. since I was an engineer for one of the first TDMA Digital Cell companies… Aerial Comm back in ’97.

  27. mrbill says:

    Wow, this makes four pictures of mine that Consumerist has used. Nifty.