Purchasing a cell phone can be a big investment, and there are many options to choose from. One can buy a cell phone or a smart phone. There are prepaid calling plans, where you can pay by the day or minute, two-year contracts or pay-as-you-go plans. Things to consider would be how much are you willing to pay? Do you want to pay by the month or as you go? Is it important to you not to be locked into a contract? Is this plan for an individual or a family? What features are important to you, and last but not least, what cell-phone providers have good service in your area, near your home and/or place of business?
There are many cell-phone providers. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon are the big 4 major carriers. There are also smaller CLECs (competitive local exchange carrier): Consumer Cellular, Credo, and US Cellular, to name a few. CLECs rent the facilities from carriers, which enables them to cut costs and to charge the consumer less. Always be sure and read consumer reviews, as far as an overall quality and customer service comparison. Sometimes, you get what you pay for, and a bargain isn’t always a bargain!
As far as checking for service coverage, which is a great idea, there are many tools for this. Google search “check for cell phone service coverage”, to find various resources. Many of the websites available ask you to type in a zip code. Sadly, many complaints that come to the BBB are from individuals, who purchased a 2-year agreement, and wanted out because there was no service in their area. It is up to the consumer to check this out beforehand.
Hidden costs and termination fees are something else to be aware of. If you think for any reason that you are going to want out of a 2-year contract, before the 2 years are up, consider that you are liable for early-termination fees. This may cost you up to $350, depending on the contract agreement. For this reason, you may opt for a pay-as-you go or prepaid phone plan.
If you are on a fixed income and need to carefully budget your money, prepaid or pay-as-you-go phones may be very ideal for you. According to ConsumerReports , a by-the-month, prepaid service can cost under $25, compared to “$50 to $100 for contract customers”. If you have multiple phone users in your family, though, prepaid phones may not be very cost effective.
As far as whether to buy a traditional cell phone or a smart phone, that will depend on what features are important to you. Traditional cell phones include a place to keep your contacts, a camera, calling and texting capabilities, and more, depending on the phone. Smartphones are great for people, who want a lot of features, including social networking, access to multiple emails, faster internet, higher quality camera and video, GPS, Word docs, Excel, and lots of apps. The cost difference for a cell phone can cost anywhere from “$20 to $150” a month with a 2-year contract, compared to $200 to $350 for one of the new, state-of-the-art phones (iPhone, Droid models, and Samsung models). Plus, many apps are not free!
Roaming charges may cost additional for any plan. If you do not have a texting plan, incoming and outgoing texts also may creep up on your bill. Instead of being nickeled and dimed to death, your plan may dollar you to death, especially if calling minutes are used up. Additional charges definitely do apply! The great advantage of prepaid phones is that there is an indicator that keeps track of the number of minutes remaining. This feature may be a necessity for some.
Whether you want a cell phone with the basics or a state-of-the-art, multitasking device with all of the bells and whistles, there are many factors to consider. Budget, features, service quality and customer service, flexible payment plans vs. contract agreements, and hidden fees. Once you have weighed all of these options to come to your decision by doing some internet research and checking with the Better Business Bureau, it’s time to make your quality investment.
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