Friday, February 12, 2010

Choosing a Phone

All of our web sites focus on specific cellular features like coverage, plans and service. But one of the most important decisions you need to make is which phone model to choose. It shouldn't be your first decision because you need to establish whether a wireless carrier is available in your area before you can look at any phone. Once you have determined which carriers serve your area and which plans fit your usage, the handset is next. Today's choices can be overwhelming.

If you wanted, say, an iPhone, then you only need to determine whether AT&T serves your area. Choosing a Blackberry widens your possibilities greatly. And if any nice, small flip-phone fills your needs, the whole spectrum of carriers and plans become available. How do you take that next step?

We recommend that you start searching for your next phone at a wireless store that features multiple carriers. Best Buy and Radio Shack come to mind ("No thanks, I'm just looking"), but you also have some great online choices like Let's Talk and Wirefly who usually offer better prices than brick & mortar stores. Don't buy right away. Step back, review your notes, and then go for it. Our family usually chooses the cheapest (free?) model that fills our minimum needs. We caution you not to over-analyze your choices in Don't Sweat Your Phone Choice.

Don’t fall in love with a certain phone model. Narrow your choice to certain carriers and plans first, then choose among their handsets. We recommend where you can check specifications, side-by-side, and Moose Wireless for the best online deals. Unfortunately, the larger carriers have exclusive access to certain phone models, but even the greatest phone in the world will be disappointing on an inadequate network. If a smaller network has the best combination of coverage and features, you’d be foolish to ignore them.

There is always the possibility of using a favorite handset on a different network, but the carriers fight that as best they can. Switching a SIM among GSM phones is an effective method in some cases, but not always. This opens the possibility of buying a phone on eBay or elsewhere, but you’re on your own for support. OK, let's review: service first, handset second. Then, don't look back.

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