The first thing you need is the right kind of phone with the right kind of camera. You need to check with the specific scan and fax service to see if your phone qualifies. The most widely accepted phones are 3G phones made by Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Most importantly, your phone will need to have at least a two-megapixel camera. Currently, there are about 300 different phones on the market that meet this requirement [source: scanR].
Also, you'll need to have a data plan in addition to a voice plan with your cellular provider. Data plans allow you to browse the Internet and send multimedia text messages (MMS) and e-mails. Data plans cost extra money and vary depending on the carrier. Some carriers limit the size of data files you can send across the network. So you might want to check with your cellular provider before signing up for a scan/fax service.
You have two options when using a scan and fax service: software or no software. With the software option, you download a program onto your phone that compresses and optimizes your image files before sending them to the Internet fax service. If you don't use the software, then you send the raw image files directly to the scan and fax service via e-mail or MMS.
The advantage of using the software method is that the file is compressed before sending it over your cellular data network. If you pay by the megabyte for data transfers, then it'll be considerably cheaper to send a compressed file. Even if you pay for unlimited data transfers, a smaller file is easier on a slow mobile Internet connection.
To download the software, you can either download it onto your computer or directly onto your cell phone. To download it onto your computer, visit the Web site of the service you want to use. Once downloaded, you can connect to your cell phone using a USB cable and follow the instructions to transfer the software to your phone. To download the program directly to your cell phone, use your phone's Web browser to visit the special version of the service's Web site.
We're going to talk more about how each scan and fax service works in a minute. Right now, let's go over some tips for making the highest quality scans with a camera phone.