Here's a look at where digital cellular — and its predecessor, analog — came from and where it's going. Do you need digital now? Are there actually advantages to analog? Read on and find out.
Digital is the future. Almost all of the nationwide cellular carriers now use digital networks or are at the very least in the process of converting their networks from analog to digital. Digital promises better service quality, enhanced security, and next-generation features including calling conveniences (call waiting, three-way calling, etc.), wireless data and multimedia services. For the most part, digital delivers, too. Digital handsets can also pack more features into a smaller and lighter package than their analog counterparts.
Operators like digital because it means a more efficient network capable of carrying more data (voice calls plus other services) for a lower operational cost. Consumers like digital because it generally means better sound quality on voice calls and enhanced features and faster speeds on everything else from voicemail to cellular Internet services. Digital's fans also claim that a digital network is a safer network, as digital signals can be scrambled upon transmission, making it harder for would-be thieves to steal users' personal information.
Analog is certainly in its dying days of serving the cellular telephone users of the United States, but if you live or spend much time in certain areas not yet covered by digital networks (rural locales, mainly), you might want to consider a dual-mode phone that can switch from digital to analog as needed.
City dwellers and other cellular users who spend the majority of their time in areas covered by digital networks probably don't need to think twice about whether or not their phones are analog-compatible. Digital isn't going anywhere soon, and when its time inevitably does come it will be in favor of a new technology and not analog. For the time being, analog is a handy backup if you live or often travel to rural, coastal, or other areas on the fringes of digital cellular networks. Otherwise, there's no real need to worry about getting an analog phone.