Shopping for Cell Phones

cell phone

Are you confused when it comes to shopping for cell phones? It can be a balancing act but there's no need to feel overwhelmed.

Shopping for Cell Phones: Consider These

When you're ready to start shopping for cell phones, there are a few things to consider:

  • How fancy do you want your phone to be? How technologically advanced, how trendy, etc?
  • What is the coverage like with the provider who offers that phone?
  • Contract or prepaid (pay as you go)?
  • Do you have a brand to which you tend to be fairly loyal?
  • How many minutes do you need?
  • What other options do you need? Which would you like even though you don't need them?

Technology, Trends, and Other Options

What's important to you in a phone? Once you come up with a list of must-haves and "would like to haves", you can approach a salesperson with a strong sense of what type of phone will make-and keep-you happy. Also, with such concrete ideas of what you want, the salesperson will more easily match a phone to your needs. Here are some of the things cell phones have to offer. Decide which ones are necessary for your life:

  • Music playing capabilities (do you just want FM radio or do you want to be able to store and play MP3s all day long?) and the ability to play music videos
  • Taking your own pictures and recording your own videos
  • Sending and receiving emails (you can send texts on all phones if your plan allows for it, but not all send emails)
  • Internet options
  • GPS capability
  • Just dialing and talking; the bare minimum is fine
  • Different color availabilities or faceplates to give your phone a new look/personalization (some phones come in a variety of colors, but not all providers carry all of the colors)
  • Brand loyalty (if you've always had and loved Motorolas, you may be hesitant to try a Nokia, for example)

Overall, it boils down to what you want your phone to do. Will you use it more for work or play, communication or entertainment with a few phone calls and texts thrown in per week? Do you need it to be a resource for you as well, complete with email, GPS, and Internet?

The Cool Factor

If you want to be the first at school or the office to have the new biggest thing to hit the cell phone market, be prepared to spend a lot. The price generally comes down over time, but some people prefer not to wait. Just be sure not to get swept away in the excitement and go with a service provider that doesn't work well in your area.

Your Plan

You may be thinking, "Wait, this article is about phones, not plans", but they go hand in hand. If a phone won't work within your plan requirements, you need to know. No matter how much you want the newest BlackBerry, if the only company that has it doesn't offer service where you live or work, it makes no sense to buy it. Your best bet is to buy a comparable phone now and wait until the new BlackBerry, for example, is more widespread among cell phone service providers.

Once you decide how many minutes and texts you need, along with which phone options are important for you, you'll need to figure out your monthly bill (if appropriate). Before committing to any phone or any cell plan, have the sales associate figure out the cost for you. That includes a PDA plan if you're getting one of those, special text plans, plans that allow you to send pictures or videos, and so forth. Be very thorough before signing a contract and you will be less likely to be shocked when the bill comes.

Some people may go so far as to choose their network based on the phones they offer, but that only really works for those in larger cities where most networks work well. If you're in a rural area, you may not have the same options.

Carefully look at the map to make sure that you can make and receive calls and messages in areas where you live and work, plus any areas where you frequently travel. Choosing a cell phone plan doesn't just boil down to who has the coolest phones and the best deal on the number of minutes you need at a given time.

The Bottom Line

The two main things you have to consider when shopping for cell phones are the technology, prestige, or popularity of the phone (and how much it matters to you), and how it works on your network of choice. Searching for the perfect phone can be a balancing act between the phone you like, the service you need, and the cost of options you want to have.

Shopping for Cell Phones