Push-to-talk phones work well, but get used to no privacy

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February 19, 2004|By Kevin E. Washington

I should start with a confession. I've been an old fogey who has complained for years about "push-to-talk" service on cellular telephones. It's annoying to be privy to someone else's conversation when you only hear one side of it. It's doubly annoying to hear the other person answer.

So despite the fun I had playing with a couple of Sprint PCS's new push-to-talk cellular telephones recently, I do believe that they should come with rules that when broken will send the abuser to a nonlethal electric chair or similar form of painful punishment.

If you don't know what push-to-talk is, you've probably heard it. Nextel Communications has offered the service exclusively for years until Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Alltel Corp. decided it was time to participate. A cellular telephone with push-to-talk is like a hot-shot, long- distance walkie-talkie. When you want to talk, you push a button on the side of the telephone. When the other person wants to talk, he or she does the same. Meanwhile, each of you is on speaker phone - so you don't need to hold the phone to the side of your head.

Hence, the problems for everyone nearby who isn't part of the conversation.

The Sprint PCS cellular telephones that I tested were the Sanyo RL2000 ($250) and the RL2500 ($280), both first-rate cellular telephones. The RL2000 is a rugged telephone with rubber grip sides. The RL2500 is a clam shell telephone that was preferred by several of the women I showed it to over the RL2000. Each telephone is geared up for Sprint's Ready Link service and push-to-talk will work only with telephones with that service.

Both cellular telephones worked well in a regular mode or in the Ready Link mode. Sprint PCS charges an extra $15 a month on your regular monthly cellular-telephone plan for the Ready Link service without Internet Access (with access it's $20 extra). And I think it's well worth the extra fee.

One problem I have with cellular telephones, besides the spotty service, is that I can never figure out where to hold a cell phone so that I can get the speaker to my ear. Each one I test is different - and I find myself raising or lowering the cell to hear what the person on the other end of the wireless line is saying.

You never have that problem with push-to-talk telephones because of the speaker.

But there are some rules for when to use the telephone. You shouldn't use it in theaters or restaurants or other public places where you will disturb other patrons.

Information: 888-253-1315 or www.sprintpcs.com.

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