Sunday, January 22, 2006

TDMA Phones

Most of us know that Beyond Wireless is cutting off TDMA activations on the 31st of this month. So those of us who want their prized service have precious little time to get it. But what phone do you want? First of all, you'll need a phone that's either AT&T or not SOC-locked (US Cellualr TDMA works fine, as do most phones that say Digital on them or have no branding). You may also be able to use Cingular TDMA phones. Second, here's a guide to what phones are how good, for the phones most on the market (I'm not going to talk about eh old extendable-antenna Nokias that weighted half a pound)...


I'm pretty sure these guys made the most TDMA phones. Made is the usual verb here, as TDMA phone production has, as far as I know, ceased. They also made the most feature-rich TDMA phone, though, as is the typical Nokia style until about 2005, it's a bar phone.

5165 - This is possibly the most "out there" TDMA phone. It has all the functionality (voice and text) that Beyond Wireless TDMA allows and reception is good. If you don't mind a small yellow-backlit screen and a bricklike from factor (as in near-unpocketably large) you should be very happy with this very cheap ($5-$10 is the usual price) phone, which has scads of accessories available.

5160 - If you just talk this phone is fine. It's the older brother to the 5165 and sports a boxier faceplate (for best looks change with a 5165 faceplate) and a lack of outgoing text messaging. I reccommend this less especially since it's a little rarer and probably is just as expensive as the 5165.

5125 - This is the dual-band cousin of the 5165. It should work just as well since most 1900 band coverage on TDMA is supplemented by reception on the 850 band or is dead already. But it is rarer I think so probably not a great deal.

5120 - This is the dual-band version of the 5160. Read the comments on the 5160, than the differences between the 5165 and the 5125 and that's about what this phone is.

1260\1261 - If you want modern and basic, this is it. It has a pretty large black-and-white screen and I think a calculator and works pretty well overall, though not excpetionally well. I'd pass this up though unless you can get it for less than maybe $15 as phones that are a good bit better aren't much more expensive. Also this is not a terribly well-known phone so it may be a little more expensive that way.

1220 - Again, the dual-band cousin of its xx60 model. Haven't seen any though.

2260 - If you want a refreshing blue backlight and vibrating alert with once again a more modern phone, here you go. Beware though that it's pretty expensive and reception has been termed less than great. I'd personally pass this up for (once again) a better-featured model.

3560 - One of the four color TDMA phones, this is the older brother to the Nokia 6010\3595 still seen today on GSM networks. As such you can expect modern features, though some things, due to the nature of the TDMA network (such as web access) just aren't there. You can probably find this phone for below $40. I got mine (now traded) for $21.99 shipped. I heartily reccommend this phone if voice and text are your thing and you live in an area covered by the TDMA network. Talk is nice and cheap with Beyond so I'd say consider this phone if that's most of what you'll be doing even with CDMA and GSM carriers as options. Oh, and you can trade faceplates with a 6010 or 3595 for a look near-indistinguishable from a nice modern phone.

6560 - This is the Ferrari of TDMA phones. It's small, light, and can do everything TDMA can't as of now (TDMA could do web once; this could too). It's priced pretty high (as much as $90 and usually around $60-$70) but if TDMA is your thing nobody will know you have a TDMA phone with this as your Nokia of choice.

3360\3361 - These aren't particularly pretty or advanced or any such thing, but they once again do the job of making and receiving phone calls and text messages well. They're cheap too ($20 I think is the usual).

6360 - If you don't need a color screen and want advanced features welcome to TDMA's version of heaven. This longish but thin handset has infrared and plenty of other nice features, though I don't think web is one of them (you couldn't use it anyway). But as a warning this phone tends to get expensive ($40-$50 the last time I looked).

6160/7160 - These phones are similar in that they're pretty advanced but also pretty old, on the level of a souped up Nokia 5165. The 7160 has a slider form factor. The 6160 is a brick. I almost forgot to talk about these since they're prety rare.

I guess that's it for Nokia. Now to


These guys didn't make as many TDMA phones, but here they are:

v120 - This phone, which is poor in its CDMA incarnation, has been surprisingly well-reviewed for TDMA. If you want a $30 card on Beyond Wireless and will pay $6.95 for shipping, you can just by this phone flat out and easy.

v60 - Sure it's one of the two TDMA flips, but it's as bad on TDMA as the v120 is on CDMA. I'd make this a phone to pass up, in favor of...

v60 color - This is a phone that's pretty good at doing phone calls and text messages and has the distinction of being the only TDMA color flip. It's not that expensive either, at maybe $50.

c353 - This is the fourth color phone on TDMA and arguably the most basic. It has a $60 CDMA counterpart on TracFone but you should be able to get it for maybe $40 on eBay. It's an OK phone but keep in mind that it may not have the modern interface of the Tracfone version, and if it does it will have the same wierd shorcomings discussed two posts ago.

c343 - Take the c353 and give it a black-and-white screen. I think it's a little cheaper. If ou want a nice-looking prety darn basic TDMA phone here's your chance, though I'd go for the c353 or better a Nokia model.

StarTAC - Do you want to be retro? If the answer is yes welcome to the TDMA ersion of this phone. I think it's only dual-band but if you want retro and a pretty good phone to boot here it is. Just don't think too cheap.

Now for


I don't know much about these phones but they're basically the same except that some have speakerphones or ruggedized chassis while others don't. Battery life is generally not too great, but the phones aren't too bad and tbey are customizeable in such wierd ways as backlight color. The DuraMax is the durable phone (hence the name), the ProMax has a speakerphone, the Allure may also have the speakerphone and then there's one more model whose name slips my mind right now...thay're all not too expensive but not too plentiful either.


These guys generally made some good TDMA phones, though there aren't a whole bunch of them and the interface is certainly different than usual. Some of these phones have small (heightwise) screens so kep that in mind while looking around in this area. One notable phone is the T60LX or T60D (not to be confused witht he rotten T62u GAIT phone) which has plenty of nice features (though no color screen or infrared) and an interesting "egg" shape. Not too expensive either...


One of the least-known phone manufacturers, these guys made good, though very, very few, phones. You'll probably have to look for a long while to find one.

With that ends my somewhat in-depth look at TDMA phones. I'll probably post eBay closed auction prices later but hope this helped people who want to go Beyond.

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