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Cellphones: A Business Basic; Cellphone have come a long was since they first came out in the late 1970s.

Of all the tools in Ralph Mills' toolbox, the one most responsible for keeping his business running smoothly and his customers happy is Mills' cellphone. As the owner of Ralph's Marine Service, Mills keeps hundreds of boat motors operating during the frantic pace of commercial and sport-fishing seasons on the Kenai Peninsula. While Mills rushes from job to job, his cellphone travels with him, providing a constant link to his clients.

Jennifer Stinson, a Sealaska Heritage Foundation scholarship recipient, found herself faced with a request to provide Sealaska with additional information to maintain her scholarship. A cellphone call from Los Angeles, where she is studying for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology, to the foundation's Juneau office made it possible for Stinson to beat the deadline and secure the important financial aid.

For Richard Coan, sales manager of the Radio Shack store on Benson Boulevard in Anchorage, cellphones are a way of life. Both professional and private. He has programmed his cellphone so that the Batman theme alerts him of incoming calls. A quick look at the phone will identify who is calling. However, the phone plays a different tune if the call is from Coan's wife.

Cellphones played a dramatic role in the horrifying terrorist attacks of SepL 11. In the last moments of their lives, passengers on that day's ill-fated airliners used cellphones to speak to loved ones. Individuals who were trapped in the rubble that was once the World Trade Center in New York used cellphones to guide rescuers to their locations. On Sept. 12, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported that AT&T was donating 6,000 wireless phones to assist emergency personnel and military workers involved in the recovery operations following the terrorist attacks.

Since first tested commercially in Chicago in the late 1970s by Illinois Bell, cellphones have attached themselves to the activities of our day-to-day lives. According to the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, there were more than 76 million wireless subscribers in the United States in 1999.

"Cellular phones aren't just for business people," Richard Coan said.

"They're not just for safety. They're a convenience item. They're less expensive nowadays, so you can actually do more. And you can use them to save lime."

For Coan, advances in cellphone capabilities have allowed him to streamline his dependence on other equipment.

"I used to have a pager, a cellphone, a fax line and an office line," he said. "And I just got rid of everything and got a cellphone. I don't have to check all these different numbers. A cellphone is my central thing."

Most features on wireless phones are actually services you choose when you sign up for a specific calling plan. Some, however, are built into the different models in varying combinations and include:

* Built-in microbrowsers that allow access to traffic news, weather news and shopping;

* Call forwarding;

* Call log of recently dialed, received and missed calls;

* Call timer to track time used from total time available in monthly plan;

* Caller ID;

* Conference call;

* Data capability to transmit data from a laptop, portable fax machine or personal digital assistant equipped with a model and an auxiliary jack;

* E-mail;

* Games;

* Multiple NAM, which allows the user to sign up with more than one cellular service;

* Multiple ringer tones;

* Security locks to prevent unauthorized use of the phone;

* Size and weight that varies from under three ounces to the more standard weights of five to seven ounces;

* SMS, or short messaging system, for receiving and transmitting short text messages that don't require the use of billable airtime;

* Speaker phone;

* Vibrating ringers to use rather than an audible ring;

* Voice recognition, which will cause the phone to dial preprogrammed numbers by voice command, rather than pushing buttons.

In spite of all those options, Alaskans are looking for reliability, according to Tammy DeShay, the manager of AT&T's Anchorage retail store. They're also looking for easy and safe use.

"Now, almost all the phones come with a free headset and the customers love that," DeShay said. "More so because of the safety feature, but also because of the ease of use. You can have (your cellphone) on the seat next to you in your vehicle (and still talk) and it's great. You don't have to buy a complete car kit to be hands-free."

The silent, vibrating ringer is a plus, since it offers privacy and minimizes confusion.

"In a store, if someone's cellphone starts ringing, you don't know whose phone it is," DeShay said.

Size also is important, she added, with cellphone users looking for a phone that's neither too big nor too small.

The voice activation feature has received some interest lately.

"I probably got 21 requests for that feature last week," DeShay said. "We've got one phone coming out with that feature, but it's hard to say how it will work until I get an opportunity to see it."

Not big in terms of attraction to Alaska cellphone users are text messaging and games, according to DeShay.

Both DeShay and Coan said Nokia is currently their biggest selling brand.

"The menu features are easy to use and it has a better battery life," Coan said. "If you stick with Nokia, you don't have to sit down and try to figure out how to program numbers in them. They're easy to use."

They agreed that the Nokia 5165 is the most popular model. Features on this phone include a weight of less than six ounces, 30 different ring tones to chose from, three games, the ability to receive short text messages, and the user can view the last 10 calls missed, the last 10 numbers dialed, and the last 10 calls received. It also has an alarm clock, automatic redial, call forwarding, call hold, call timers, clock and one-touch dialing. Coan said another reason for its popularity is the interchangeable faceplates.

"You can actually take the cover off and put on one that's pink, one that looks like the American flag, or even change the color of the buttons," he said.

On his list of the top 10 cellphones, Robert Frieden, a telecommunications professor at Pennsylvania State University, placed the Nokia 5165 as No. 3. In first place was the Samsung SCH-8500, followed by the Samsung SCH-3500. Of the top 10, the favorite features included caller ID, a call log, a phone book, e-mail, SMS messaging, multiple ringer tones and a vibrating ringer.

Coan said Panasonic's DuraMax also is worthy of mention. This phone can stand up to almost any abuse.

"There's a reason why we carry it," he said. "It's probably one of my top sellers and is made for construction workers."

It weighs six ounces, has a contoured, rubberized case and is somewhat water-resistant. The features include a built-in speakerphone and SMS support.

"It's not the most attractive, but it's small, hand-held and very durable," Coan said.

As quickly as cellphones are making their way into nearly every facet of our lives, enough cannot be said for the impact they have had in the area of safety, undoubtedly making 9-1-1 the most used keys. According to national data from the CTIA, wireless calls to 9-1-1 and other emergency numbers total more than 43 million annually and almost 118,000 a day.

At the Alaska State Troopers Soldotna 9-1-1 dispatch office, cellular phone calls exceed 60 percent of the total calls received, said Jan Henry, coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Borough's office of emergency management. According to Rep. Kevin Mayer, R-Anchorage, 25 percent of the 9-1-1 calls in Anchorage come from people using a cellphone. As a result, Mayer introduced legislation to permit a surcharge on callers to help defray the cost of equipment and manpower to track the source and location of cellphone calls.

On the flip side of the coin is the concern that drivers using cellphones create unsafe situations. However, information gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatal Accident Reporting System reflected that only 54 of the 41,611 fatal accidents in 1999 listed wireless phone use as a driver-related factor.

Decreasing that number, according to CTIA, means knowing and using features on the phone that will allow drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road. Specifically, they encourage hands-free or speaker phones and memory dialing functions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Ten Tips to Using Your Phone Responsibly and Safely While Driving


1. Get to know your wireless phone and its features, such as speed dial and redial.

2. When available, use a hands-free device.

3. Position your wireless phone within easy reach.

4. Let the person you are speaking with know you are driving. If necessary, suspend the call in heavy traffic or hazardous weather conditions.

5. Do not take notes or look up phone numbers while driving.

6. Dial sensibly and assess the traffic; if possible, pace calls when you are not moving or before pulling into traffic.

7. Do not engage in stressful or emotional conversations that may divert your attention from the road.

8. Dial 9-1-1 or other local emergency numbers to report serious emergencies-it's free from your wireless phone!

9. Use your wireless phone to help others in emergencies.

10. Call roadside assistance or a special non-emergency wireless number when necessary.

For more information, call CTIA's toll-free consumer information safety hotline at 1-888-901-SAFE.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Jackinsky, McKibben
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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