Monday, April 23, 2007

Cellphone myths, and little-known facts

What if you could tap a special code into your cellphone to unlock a reserve of battery power for those desperate moments when you need to make just one more call before your phone dies?

"Total nonsense," said Richard Windsor, an analyst with Nomura in London, who specializes in cellphones and cellphone equipment.

"Pure science fiction," said Marcus Dacombe, Nokia's head of product marketing and sales for Europe.

Too bad, because if you read Internet blogs you might almost convince yourself that the function does exist, as implausible as it might sound. A wealth of mythology has grown up around cellphones and little-known functions that make them tick. The potential of extra battery power is perhaps the function that seems most immediately useful, but it is not the only one.

"It would be great if the story about the reserve battery power was true," Dacombe said. "I would be fascinated to know where the idea that it exists came from."

Nobody is exactly sure where these ideas about special cellphone features come from, but they are out there and most are nothing more than myths that have endured over many years.

There is the one that says that if you lock your keys in the car and you have a remote keyless entry system, you can unlock the car by having somebody beep your spare remote over a cellphone if you hold the phone near the car door.

That is surely another trick the phone makers should have invented - except that the remote opening systems for cars work on radio waves, which cannot be transmitted over a cellphone.

These myths have managed to dupe the gullible probably in part because most cellphones do indeed have some little-known functions that are not explained in owner's manuals.

For example, on many phones, punching in *#06# will get you the serial number of the phone, a number that is particular to that handset and can be used to block the phone if it is stolen.

That number is also written on a white label on the inside of all phones, usually underneath the battery.

Dialing *#0000# on Nokia phones will display a screen with details on the version of the software the phone is using. Similar codes will work on other types of phones, usually the more advanced models.


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