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Cell Phone Contracts - Necessary Evil

Sep 15, 2008
If you don't already have a cell phone, you're definitely in the minority. It seems like just 5 years ago, you were a high roller if you were sporting a mobile phone on your ear. Now you will find pre-teens walking down the streets or the halls of their middle school with the latest cellular gadget. Cell phones have revolutionized today's society and made it easier than ever to get information when you need it; wherever you may be.

When shopping for your first cell phone or switching carriers, you have several options including AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel and various local companies. Each has its unique advantages and disadvantages. The key is to do you research before blindly signing a 2 year contract. It may not seem like long until you find yourself locked into an unfortunate situation.

So what is the best way to find the right contract for you? Here are a few pointers:

- Compare minutes - all cell phone plans have an allocated number of daytime, night or weekend minutes. Many carriers now have unlimited plans although they are pretty costly. Make sure you find out when night and weekend minutes start. Most carriers don't start night time minutes until 9 p.m.!

- Research data plans - If you intend to browse the internet, picture, video or text message, you need to research the various data plans on each carrier. They can vary quite a bit. Text messaging is getting more and more expensive and if you go over, it is going to hurt your wallet. Most carriers have a reasonably priced unlimited data plan that will allow you to surf the web and not have to worry about how much data you have transferred.

- Browse their phone selection - Some carriers have similar phones but many have unique phones that are only available on their network. Before you lock in to any contract, you have to make sure there is a phone that will suit your needs and a phone that you will enjoy. For example, the iPhone is a very popular mobile device that is currently only available with AT&T. Make sure the phone is compatible with your needs. If you plan to surf the web or send emails, your best bet is probably a PDA or Smartphone with a full keyboard. If you only intent on making calls, receiving calls and typing a few text messages a month, you will likely be able to find a free phone that will cover all your bases.

- Test their network coverage - Each carrier has great service areas and not-so-great service areas. Can you imagine locking into a 2 year contract only to find out that your phone only works in your home half of the time? Testing to see if you get service or coverage at work, home or anywhere else you spend a lot of time is a requirement. Many cell phone providers have trial periods where you can test this out. Or if you don't want to go through all that hassle, find a friend that uses a particular cell phone provider and test their phone out at your home or work. Asking existing customers in your local area is one of the best ways to find out if that service provider has good coverage in your area.
About the Author
Art Gib is a writer for Cell Phone Battles, a website featuring AT&T reviews and Verizon reviews.
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