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Old 08-01-07, 12:13 PM   #1
freewheel
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Cell phones and touring

I don't have a cell phone but am thinking of getting one for my bike tour to keep in touch. A thought that comes to mind is how do I keep it charged since I plan on camping and pedaling. I suppose I'd be willing to just buy new batteries if they come fully charged, not sure they do. Is there a cell phone out there that uses disposable batteries such as AAA's ? How has anyone else out there dealt with this problem ? OK, thanks...
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Old 08-01-07, 12:56 PM   #2
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There are portable phone chargers made by energizer. I would recomend a pay-as-you-go phone.
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Old 08-01-07, 04:36 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by freewheel View Post
I don't have a cell phone but am thinking of getting one for my bike tour to keep in touch. A thought that comes to mind is how do I keep it charged since I plan on camping and pedaling. I suppose I'd be willing to just buy new batteries if they come fully charged, not sure they do. Is there a cell phone out there that uses disposable batteries such as AAA's ? How has anyone else out there dealt with this problem ? OK, thanks...
I would go and check out the phones and not commit to a phone yet. I know those cell phone sales guys tend to push you to do a deal then. Resist! Check out the phones. See how the phone feels in your hand. This is just my personal take on the phones but I find the one piece (often called candy bar or non-flip) phones best when riding. I've owned many phones in the past. I've owned flips and many one piece phones. I've found the best phone for riding for me is the one piece. the reason why is less fumble opening up the cellphone when using it. Also being a one piece makes it easy to hold in the hand while you're in motion or riding or doing some action. Tho the one piee phones may be a little longer (but still slim) then the flip phones it's slightly larger side makes it easier to type a number in when making a call.

Also check the underside of the phone where the charging port is. Motorola's tend to be propritary clip ins to charge the phone. If the clips break (happened to me before on a v something model) you're screwed and can't charge the phone. My current phone is a Sanyo 4920. Nothing fancy, I prefer function over form. The reason for getting this phone is the 'barrel' plug at the bottom to charge the phone. By barrel plug I mean a circular plug. If the plug breaks and such you can always get an adaptor for it at the local radioshack and solder it back on and keep using the phone. Another reason why for the barrel plug is because when traveling my solar panel setup comes with standard barrel plugs to charge phones and such.

I use a Isun and Isun Battpak. These units have come down in price a lot over the years. I got mine many years ago and it costed about $100 CDN for the panel and BattPak. The Isun is 2.2W and comes with a cig-port adaptor so you can use the cig-adaptors for your phone to plug into the cig-port adaptor and charge you phone on the fly. The solar panel is very light. I think about 1/2 lb to 1/3 lb in weight.

I found a review on it here

It may be cheaper to get the cellphone case and cig-adaptor off Ebay. I prefer open face carrying cases that way you can use the phone and see who's calling and the case will make the phone water resistant should you be in a storm.

If you're going with the Eneriger things you'll have to check the plugs carefully as Energizer seems to make that stuff for only the popular phones. Your safest best is to pick a phone you can live with then go with a cig-adaptor. Get a small solar panel like the Isun. If you can handle the Battpak I highly recommnd getting that as well. I own both. The battpak is uber versatile. Stick cells in it and charges the phone. Not to mention the unit can charge cells while you're riding as well. Put that Isun in a waterproof bag and tie to your bag while riding. It'll charge up stuff and you're good to go.

Hope that helps some.
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Old 08-01-07, 06:20 PM   #4
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I take a cell phone with me when I tour. Charging the thing isn't a problem, most campsites, bathrooms, stores, libraries, etc have outlets. There are chargers that use a wind up mechanism which is what I have, see: http://coolstuffcheap.com/windup-ele...e-charger.html

Or you can use the sun, see: http://www.21st-century-goods.com/page/21st/PROD/SSC03 or http://www.nextag.com/solar-cell-pho...er/search-html

Or you can get a charge off of a AA battery, see: http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/cellphone...ger-124012.php
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Old 08-01-07, 07:52 PM   #5
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I was just in the Adirondacks and my fully charged phone died the 1st evening because there was no signal. When there are no cell towers , the phone still scans for a cell network and apparently uses a lot of juice to do so.
Whatever phone you get, turn it off when you're in the sticks..
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Old 08-01-07, 07:57 PM   #6
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I took a pay as you go phone I went from SC to TX. Charging is easy, usually I would charge the phone when going to gas stores, laundromats, parks. I left it off for the most part checking in for messages at my town for the day. If you plan on talking a lot on tour, then you'll have to get a real cellphone plan. Net10 phones are really a bargain these days.

The only problem I had getting a signal was NW of Austin, Texas outside of the towns and US 129 south of Stockton GA until I approached the interstate in FL.

Another good thing about prepaid cellphones is if you lose the phone, cost almost nothing to replace. Just don't store bank codes and such on them. And it's quite easy to forget things while you bike tour
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Old 08-02-07, 10:03 AM   #7
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Hey thanks, you all helped a lot
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Old 08-02-07, 10:45 AM   #8
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I think one of the best mobile power sources is the apc mobile power pack.. This will charge anything that has a usb connection.. I can keep my Garmin 305, Ipod and Samsung phone all charged up when on the road.. You sometimes have to buy a charging usb cable for your phone but most phones have this option and the power pack lasts a long time.. These can be found on ebay for around 40.00, circuit city carries them in stock..

http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/APC-M...oductDetail.do
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Old 08-02-07, 11:59 AM   #9
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Aside from the particular type of phone, another thing to consider is the phone company you select as a carrier. When I toured from Texas to Alaska last summer there were a number of combinations of phones and companies within our group. The model of the phone seemed to be largely irrelevant in maintaining a signal, but the particular network it was subscribed to made a huge difference. Some people almost always had connectivity no matter where we were while some phones were only wasteful to carry outside urban areas. Things may have changed since last year, but the most reliable networks from best to worst were: 1) Verizon, 2) Cingular, 3) all others, and 4) T-Mobile. Now, this may or may not be relevant to you and you can get by with just about any carrier if you only require it for urban areas. However, the carrier is worth considering depending on how important reliable connectivity is to your situation.
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Old 08-02-07, 04:49 PM   #10
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Also learn to turn the phone from ANALOG to DIGITAL mode. By default most modern day cellphones (if not all) are set to ANALOG & DIGITAL AUTOMATIC mode. What this means is that the phone will automatically switch from digital to analog mode automatically when you're outside a digital signal area. The switch is rather seamless but analog mode uses more power to sustain the clearity of the call I've found and learned.

If you switch your phone to digital mode only you will use less power to sustain a phone call with clearity and the battery lasts longer. You just need to manually switch it to analog when you're out of the digital zone. Most cellphones will have a "D" icon to let you know you're in a digital zone. Most cities will be in the D zone. From what I've gathered taking with some of the cellphone operators (*611) they told me each cell tower repeats the cell signal ~10-15km with minor overlaps. If you're in a border town (CDN/USA , USA/MEX, etc) your phone may go into ROAM mode and may pick up the cell signal on the other side of the border while not being on the other side of the border. You will take on long distance charges and whatever the company charges for ROAMing connection fees. I've never experienced this but the operators have told me to call them up and pending your usage on the call time and how frequent this happens they may just drop that charge because it does happen from time to time if you're very close to the border. The operators told me when I was at Niagra Falls I may pick up U.S of A cell signal towers and the phone may lock on that if I'm close to the customs bridge or along the falls that is narrower (closer) to the U.S of A.
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Old 08-02-07, 04:54 PM   #11
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I've seen the commercials on CDN TV channels before about the Cingular rollover mins. Meaning if you don't use up all your time for that month you can transfer those minutes to the next month and build up like a bank.
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Old 08-03-07, 08:47 AM   #12
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One other thing to think about is if the cell phone/carrier supports GPS navigation. My verizon phone has navigation built in. GPS navigation sucks up battery power, but it also allows you to not have to rely on a map to navigate real-time, and the navigation will give you a bike specific route. I would still carry a map just in case, but its nice not to have to check.
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Old 08-15-07, 02:50 AM   #13
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Another cellphone related recommendation.... google maps for the cellphone. It's a free download for most cell companies.

Although it doesn't offer GPS tie in, it does have the option to pull in satellite images, search for business names, give step by step detailed directions (like mapquest), etc. You can also save routes which is great when you plan a tour.

I picked up a sidewinder charger for my cellphone and plan on using it and google maps for my next 3-4 day ride.
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