As I mentioned the other day, I ordered an unlocked Motorola Pebl on eBay on July 21. Yesterday, it arrived. The purchasing process was simple and painless. I bought via “Buy it now” and paid immediately, and two or three days later I got my tracking number via email. It was shipped UPS ground, so it took several days to get here.

The shipping costs were outrageous. The sellers on eBay compete viciously on price and pad their profits with absurd shipping costs. I think they charged me $30 to ship my phone, and shipping costs from my seller were actually on the low end.

In ordering the phone, I had two big worries. The first was that my phone wouldn’t arrive at all, and the second was that the phone wouldn’t be new. Things turned out fine on those counts. The phone arrived, and it certainly appears to be new. The box had been opened (I assume so that the seller could unlock the phone), but none of the accessory bags were open, and the phone itself had the little protective bits of plastic that protect the various surfaces from scratching still in place.

One thing that hadn’t occurred to me is where competitively priced unlocked cell phones on eBay actually come from. Given that Motorola has deals with US carriers, it’s not as though they’re selling hundreds of phones to semi-legitimate cell phone dealers at rock bottom prices so that they can in turn sell them on eBay. I can now answer this unasked question. In my case, the phone came from Italy.

The manual is written in Italiano, the charger is for European plugs (but has a US adapter), and the phone itself is set up to be used on some Italian network. (The skin is for the Italian carrier and all of the applications are set up to work on that carrier’s network.) I’m a bit surprised that the phone didn’t have “Congratulations 2006 World Cup Champions” on the wallpaper. The seller must have set the phone’s language to English before shipping it to me. The English on this phone is the Queen’s English, which is sort of cute.

As far as the functionality goes, the phone works like a charm. I took the SIM card out of my old phone, put it in this one, charged the battery, and everything just worked. That was a relief.

I have no idea how the seller got a bunch of Italian phones, but as far as I’m concerned, this phone is the “Mafia phone” from here on out.

All in all, this experience rates as a success. I’ll have to try to figure out how to get the applications to work with Cingular, but other than that, things are fine. I can call people, sync with my laptop, get my voice mail, and send and receive text messages.

The one decision I haven’t made is whether to purchase the SquareTrade warranty that the seller sent me an offer for. The warranty lasts three years and only costs $15, which is cheaper than the stupid phone insurance carriers sell. I have no idea whether SquareTrade is legit, though. Opinions?