Tips for Choosing a Cell Phone Service

9/6/2006

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Advertisements for new cell phone technologies and design features are quite enticing. But how does a prospective buyer select from among the many wireless models and providers that are available?

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips as a starting point. Honestly answering these questions will help narrow your search to cell phones and plans that best meet your needs.

  • Who will be using the phone and why? Will the phone be used primarily for business? If so, you may want to consider a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), or a speaker phone that can be used hands-free. If teenagers or children will be using the phones, you may want to consider text messaging capability or downloadable games. Maybe your spouse would prefer a walkie-talkie phone or a camera phone?
  • Where will you be calling to and from? Will you be making mainly local calls, long distance calls, international calls or a combination? Do you anticipate making many calls on the road?
  • When will you be using the phone? What time of day and which days of the week will see the heaviest usage? How many minutes a month do you estimate using the phone? Will family members call one another primarily on their cell phones?
  • What type of plan meets your budget? Does a local, regional, national or family plan make the most sense? Carefully read the fine print in the brochures and all contract details. What are the monthly fees based on? How does the carrier define "peak" calling times and "local" calling areas? What types of minutes are included in the monthly fee, and can you "roll over" extra minutes to the next month? What are the surcharges (activation fee; roaming charges; rates for extra minutes; fees for voicemail, text-messaging, Caller ID features, etc.)?
  • How can you take advantage of advertised offers? Check both online and in retail stores for special promotions. If a rebate is offered, what are the exact terms? If extra phones are included in the package, what additional fees apply? Does the contract permit you to switch plans or upgrade phones in the middle of your contract period?
Finally, don’t make a final decision without checking the cancellation and return policies. There are plans that will permit you to try a phone for a few days without paying a cancellation fee. And, don’t forget to obtain a BBB report (www.bbb.org) on the wireless provider before making your selection.
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