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Cell Phones
In today's world, the majority of consumers own or would like to own a cell phone. This report has been provided for those that need guidance on how to go about purchasing one and what to be aware of.

There are three major steps that you will make when purchasing a cell phone: 1) choosing a provider; 2) choosing a phone and 3) choosing a service plan. They may happen in any particular order and here are some tips to guide you through each step.

Choosing a cell phone service provider/carrier:
Estimate how much you are willing to spend on the phone itself and the service. Shop around to see which providers best fit your budget; do not go with the first company you come across, there are many out there. Ask about the terms of their contract up front. There may be policies that you aren't aware of until right before you sign the contract. Like with any company you are contemplating doing business with, do your homework on them! Compare BBB reports and ask your friends and family who they have service through and what their experiences have been like.

Choosing a cell phone:
It is best to choose your provider and purchase your cell phone simultaneously. Many service providers require you to use certain phones, so you might as well do it all at once to save potential hassle. Find out if you'll be able to take your phone to another provider as sometimes companies won't allow activation by another service provider once you cancel with them. Also, providers often have great deals on new phones when you sign up with them. You can sometimes get your phone for free this way. A lot of service providers also offer rebate programs. Be cautious of rebate programs that make you wait a significant amount of time before you can apply for the rebate. You should be able to send in for a rebate within, at most, 30 days of the purchase. Once you have considered what features appeal to you and what you will be using your phone for, ask your provider if they have any promotions going on for phones that contain those features. Keep your priorities in mind when having this discussion. Do not be persuaded into buying a phone loaded with advanced features if you are only going to use it for phone calls. However, if you are interested in advanced features, get specific details about them such as picture clarity and video time length. These features vary from phone to phone.

Make sure to ask about all charges up front. Get details on how much it costs to utilize the extra features. Ask how much it costs to send and receive pictures and video, what you are charged when surfing the internet on your phone and any other charges that you may need to know about.

Parents, if you are buying for your teen, make sure you get insurance on the phone incase they lose it. Ask about the details of the insurance plan and what steps need to be followed when a phone is lost.

Choosing a cell phone service plan:
Consider how often you are going to be using your phone, when and where you will use it most and if you will need long-distance calling. If your cell phone is just used for emergencies and when you may need it away from home, don't get a plan that has tons of minutes because you will end up not using them. If you're cell phone is going to be your only phone, you should get a plan that provides plenty of minutes. If you're not sure how often you are going to be using your phone, then either see if you can do a trial program where they let you use the service for a period of time and at the end of the timeframe you'll have an idea of your usage. Or, get a plan that has "roll-over" minutes which roll over the minutes you did not use so that you are not wasting your money. Here are some helpful definitions of terms that come up when you are choosing a cell phone service plan:
---"Peak minutes"are minutes used on weekdays. The start and end times vary between service carriers, but it's usually from 6am to 9pm.
---"Off-peak minutes" are minutes used on weeknights between peak hours and on weekends.
---"Anytime minutes"are minutes used anytime whether it's peak, off-peak or the weekend.
---"Coverage area" or "network" is the geographical area where your phone gets reception.
---"Roaming" is when you use your phone in an area outside of your coverage area or network. Usually when you are in another state or out of the country you are roaming. Make sure you know what symbol appears on your phone when you are roaming.
**If you travel often, get a plan that has free roaming or minimal roaming charges.
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