What to Consider When Choosing a Cell Phone Plan

| October 15, 2012

cell phone plans Choosing a cell phone carrier is a bit of a balancing act, one with increasing complexity thanks to the advances of technology and intense competition. Factors that play into that choice include cost and signal strength as well as how you plan to use the phone.

Read on to learn more, and scan through DexKnows cell phones listings to find providers near you.

Cost

A major factor in your choice of cell phone is how much you plan to use it. It is better to overestimate how many minutes you need because overages can come with a hefty price tag. Consider when you plan to use your phone. Search for deals including free overnight and weekend calls and a higher number of daytime minutes during what’s considered peak times. If members of your family are going to have cell phones, consider seeking a family plan that offers a discount.

There’s also the choice of whether to sign a contract or seek a prepaid plan. Prepaid plans let customers pay as they go. They come in a variety of options, including paying for a month of service, for only the days used and a set price for each minute used. Depending on the carrier, customers may sign up directly with the carrier and pay a fee each month or get a cell phone card that includes a certain amount of minutes.

The catch is that calling cards may come with a set amount of time in which to use the card, such as 30 to 90 days. The criticism is that they often come with a higher per-minute rate and may not include all the features enjoyed by consumers on traditional cell phone plans.

Look around for carriers who offer the best deals, including unlimited calling each month. If buying calling cards, make sure to see how many minutes are included and whether there’s an added cost applied to each call made. Find a card with an expiration date that fits your needs.

Extra fees

Beware the hidden fees when comparing costs. Carriers often charge a hefty fee for canceling a contract before its ending date. This cancellation fee can reach as much as $350 for smartphones. Activation fees are often charged for starting a contract and may be charged for each time it is renewed.

There is also concern over insurance plans that may come with a deductible of as much as $150 in order to get a replacement phone if a phone is lost, stolen or damaged.

Find a plan that suits your lifestyle. If you don’t usually make a few hours of calls a month, find a plan around 300 or 450 minutes a month rather than one up around 900. If you shoot too high, you may be wasting those minutes.

Signal strength and coverage area

Technology is advancing, and mobile carriers are in a war to keep up. Signal strength and coverage areas are definitely considerations. Check out carriers to see how far their signal reaches and at what speeds. Find one that fits your needs, including whether you’re seeking local, regional or national coverage. Ask around, especially if you live in a sparsely populated area that may have dead zones when it comes to certain cell phone providers.

Also ask about the speed of the signal, especially if you plan to use data services, and whether they have options such as the 4G network.

Features

Before deciding on a cell phone provider, put thought into what features you want, and determine what phones may fit your needs. Do you want to take photographs, or just make basic calls? How about searching the web or streaming movies? Will you be texting a lot?

If you decide on a smartphone, don’t forget to check on the price of data services and how much data you receive before paying an overage fee.

Popular features include:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Text-messaging
  • Music player
  • Camera
  • Video streaming
  • Speaker phone
  • Push-to-talk function
  • GPS
  • Internet service
  • E-mail capability

This is just some advice that can help you find your way among today’s maze of cell phones.

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Category: Cell Phones, Tech

About the Author ()

Central Ohio journalist with 15 years experience at daily newspapers. Freelance writer and amateur photographer. Storytellers are my heroes, poets my idols and photographers my looking glass.