Get connected at Advantage Electronics

By SUSAN LYNN
Register Editor

Register file photo
The staff at Advantage Electronics Radio Shack is, from left, Jon Dunbar, Sharla Miller, Andrew Dunbar, Mike Jewell, Shaday Gregg and Jake Jewell.

Cell phone models change about as fast as computers these days. The difference is that with phones, consumers will pay to stay current with the newest technologies.
“About a year, to a year-and-a-half,” is how often customers change out their phones, said Shaday Gregg who sells Verizon and BlackBerry phone products at Advantage Electronics, 320 W. Garfield.
Co-worker Sharla Miller nods at Gregg, saying, “She’s had her phone 11 months and is looking again.” Gregg, though, said she is holding out “until that perfect model arrives.”
She may not have long to wait. Between now and Christmas, six new cell phone models are expected at the electronics store.
Miller and Gregg are phone experts who handle all phone sales and service at the store. Besides being hip to all the new phone technologies and applications, they also know money-saving tips such as bundling phone plans, enrolling customers in text messaging or long-distance packages and other systems that can help eliminate duplicate services.
The duo will be on hand Friday and Saturday along with the store’s electronic and appliance division salesmen for the store’s grand opening.
Free giveaways and hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks are added enticements marking John and Gail Dunbar’s bold move to buy the former Western Auto store and merge its line of appliances and cellular phone business with Dunbar’s electronics and Radio Shack business.

FOR THOSE who still have traditional land lines plus cell phones, Miller and Gregg can make the transition easy to become a cell-phone only household while still keeping the same residential number and a hand-held set.
“The savings are tremendous by eliminating a phone service,” Miller said.
Miller also said the recent acquisition of Alltell by Verizon is a win-win for consumers. “It brings a whole new line of Verizon products to us.”
The biggest advantage to Verizon customers is that now their service reaches rural areas like Iola.
“The buyout filled the gaps,” in coverage for Verizon, which formerly served only metropolitan areas, Miller said. Verizon is now the largest carrier in the United States, with a customer base of 87 million.
Learning about Verizon’s capabilities has been exciting for Miller and Shaday. “It has the latest and the greatest,” Miller said, including its online Navigator program with GPS that gives “corner by corner” voice directions and a music program called Rhapsody that downloads customized playlists on a monthly basis.
By next year Verizon products will have 4G speed, meaning its Smart phones will be able to access the Internet at a faster speed than today’s 3G models.
“You’ll be able to streamline videos and TV casts on your phone faster than ever,” Miller said.
A Verizon program called Chaperone especially appeals to parents. With it, parents can track their childrens’ whereabouts.
“When a child’s phone travels outside a set boundary, it sets off an alert to a parent’s phone or computer,” Miller said. Parents can install the program on their children’s phones without them knowing, Miller said, “Unless they slip up and say how they know of their whereabouts.”
The program also allows parents to set timers on their children’s phones as to when to turn on or off.
Today’s youth typically have cell phones in their pre-teens, Miller said. She estimated about half of her son’s friends have cell phones. Her son Matt, who has a phone, is 9.
The youth market is huge for the cell phone industry, Miller said. The purchase of ever-changing ring tones at $1 a pop has brought in $1 billion to the industry, she said. Kids typically dismiss a phone’s preloaded, free ring tones, Miller said, opting to personalize calls, most often with popular tunes.

IN COMPETITION against myriad Smart phone makes and manufacturers, the BlackBerry holds sway as the number-one seller, Gregg said.
“Its durability and reception make it hard to beat,” she said.
BlackBerry is “its own entity,” Miller said, complete with its own Internet network.
Also coming is Android, an operating system that customizes a phone.
“It’s like what Windows is for a computer,” said Andrew Dunbar, head of the store’s electronics division, who works across from Miller and Gregg. The electronics division occupies the bulk of the newly renovated store.

CAR AUDIO systems rival the cell phone business in popularity at Advantage Electronics, said store owner Jon Dunbar. Popular installations include subwoofers, amplifiers and CD players. Mike Jewell and his son, Jake, install the systems.
This weekend’s open house will give big discounts on in-dash CD players and their installation as well as subwoofer and amplifier kits.
Turntables are still a popular item, but used for more than just playing your favorite oldie. The new models can be connected to computers which allow the music to be downloaded onto the computer, an MP3 or iPod player or burned onto a CD.
Since the late 1980s, vinyl records for the most part have been supplanted by digital or compact disc formats, though records are still being produced in small amounts for alternative-style music.
GPS devices and digital cameras continue to sell well, Dunbar said, as do its various models of computers including desktop and notebook PCs.
For the Peter Pans out there, the store’s most popular toy is the remote-controlled helicopters and cars. Dunbar is adept at getting the 4-inch models to buzz around the store.
Still to come is the store’s home theater section, where sophisticated sound systems will accompany big screen TVs.

APPLIANCES and their repair continue to be a mainstay for the store. Washers and dryers, dishwashers and stoves, freezers and refrigerators and vacuum cleaners and their parts are all available. Reliable name brands include Maytag, Fisher&Pakel, Whirlpool, Crosley, Riccar and Panasonic.
Layaway and financing options are available for big-ticket items, Dunbar said.