Bits & Bytes
`PLEASE DEPOSIT $6.95 FOR THE FIRST TELEPHONE'
As cellular phones gained popularity in the past few years, entrepreneurs hit upon the idea of renting out the costly devices to people who need them for only a few hours or a couple of days. Then rental-car companies got into the act. Now, there's an even easier way to rent a cellular phone: from a vending machine.
Called InstaFone, the cash-machine-like consoles will be set up in airports, hotels, and other places travelers frequent. All you do is insert a credit card. The machine produces a cellular-phone kit that includes a cigarette-lighter adapter and carrying case. But the setup, from a company called Sims Communications Inc. in Delray Beach, Fla., offers another feature. When you return the phone, the dispensing machine produces an itemized bill for the calls you have placed, which are charged to your credit card. The rental costs a suggested $6.95 a day, while calling charges are about $1.60 a minute for local calls and $2 when you "roam" out of the local cellular system.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG