September 14, 2003

Cingular's New FastForward Device -- Forwarding Cell Calls at What Cost?

Noted gadget author David Pogue reviews Cingular's forthcoming FastForward device in a recent New York Times "State of the Art" column (note: you may need a free registered account to access it). As David puts it: "On Oct. 1, Cingular will begin selling a unique $40 cellphone cradle called the FastForward. What it does can be described by a single sentence: whenever you slip your cellphone into it, the FastForward automatically routes incoming cell calls to your home or office phone." Read on to discover the real LawTech Guru take on this device and service.

On the surface, this sounds pretty handy -- automatically forward incoming cell calls to your home, office, or a third number, without using up your precious airtime minutes. All three desired numbers need to be entered into your cell phone's phonebook with a special code name.

However, there's some definite trade-offs involved, which David aptly outlines, so I won't repeat them here, other to note that you have to be a Cingular customer to use it. Full disclosure: I am a Cingular customer primarily because of the nice corporate discount through my firm. Overall, they've been "okay" as a carrier. General customer service has been good, but they have been TOTALLY CLUELESS when it comes to supporting cellular internet access -- yes, I meant to shout that, after enduring many hours of their tech non-support torture.

Here's a few more aspects to consider: There's a separate FastForward cradle for each major cell phone manufacturer, so if you switch phones to a different brand, you need to pop for another $40 cradle. I have the same problem with my PDA's foldable Stowaway keyboard, so I'm not a big fan of this approach. Why not just bundle it with a universal charging adapter and make the phone connectors the snap-in variety? Duh. Also, if I want to forward cell calls to my office phone when I'm at work, and then later at home, it sounds like I either need to lug the cradle around, or buy two of them for $80. It sounds like the PDA cradle thing all over again.

If you already have call forwarding for your cell, that might be preferable to all the gotchas David and I listed. I will at least applaud Cingular's attempt to simplify and consolidate your phone recharging cycle and auto-call forwarding. It's refreshing to see cell phone innovation that doesn't involve games or low-res cameras, and actually tries to enhance the phone's primary use (hint to cellular companies: we actually bought it because it's a phone -- get it?). However, as David alludes, they are certainly sending mixed signals about their true intentions in offering this device.

In certain situations, this could be quite handy -- for example, if you have broadband Internet access and don't need to worrry about the dial-up issue, or can't easily remember how to enable and disable your regular call forwarding service. In others, well, I just might hit the rewind button instead of buying the FastForward. You be the judge.

(P.S. Thanks goes to Rachel Schneider at my firm for passing along the article link. Rachel is another tech-savvy attorney who's been a past speaker at the ABA TECHSHOW conference. She's also an impressive environmental and litigation attorney in my humble opinion.)

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard