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Help for the Overwhelmed Cell-Phone Shopper Finally, a tool to compare mobile phones and plans

Anyone who says limitless choice is a good thing hasn't shopped for a cell phone lately. There's a dizzying number of handsets and calling plans. And although one of them is probably better for you than all the others, you would need to first buy a supercomputer to figure out all the options.

Or you could go to Wireless Dimension ( The publishers of this site, which is a content-sharing partner of Business Week Online and part of Maven Tech Buying Guide, collect data on cell phones and calling plans in 50 major markets and stack them up according to your preferences.

Buying a handset? Pick your city, then click the check boxes that specify type (analog or digital cellular or PCS), brand, and features (such as the type of ringer and battery). Voilà: You get a list of phones available in your region that match your criteria, and you can compare up to five of them side-by-side.

If you already own a cell phone but want to switch plans, you can search the site based on which carriers accept your model. Got a Sony in Milwaukee? tells you that Ameritech, CellularOne, and PrimeCo have compatible technology, but they may not connect you. Sprint, however, will take your subscription with no hassle.

Finding the cheapest calling plan is relatively easy: Plug in the basic monthly rate you want to pay, how many minutes you'll use your cell phone each month, and other key details. Back comes a list of eligible plans. Again, you can line them up side-by-side to sort through the hidden fees, time-of-day discounts, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum. You may be able to eliminate most of the rivals just by eyeballing the basic rates. On top of that, there's a rich collection of articles and hints to help you snare the best deal.

The site is run by Nth Dimension, a private company owned by two refugees from Microsoft and Cisco. Leigh Barer, public relations manager at, says the company makes its money through ads -- paid supplements to its standard information on each plan -- commissions from online purchases, and by selling marketing information. But, she stresses, its assessments are "totally objective." That's a breath of fresh air for the baffled consumer of cell-phone plans.

By Rick Green in New York

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