by Francine Gobert
Consumer-Action.org’s Wireless Training Module offers some tips on how to choose a wireless provider.
Take a cell assessment
Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a wireless service provider phone, plan and features.
HOW often will you use your wireless phone?
It’s important to estimate your calling needs because your monthly cost will be based on the calling plans and the minutes you buy.
HOW will you use your phone? Just for talking? Or for communicating in other ways, such as text messaging and email?
Many service providers offer additional fees for using these features, as well as alternate plans that accommodate the use of these features.
WHERE will you use your phone, and to where will you place calls?
Wireless plans can vary according to whether you will call locally, regionally or nationwide.
WHOM do you speak with most often?
If you call your family members often, and if they too want cell phones, consider family plans. Verizon and T-Mobile both offer family plans. T-Mobile offers myFaves, which allows you to choose five people with other service providers to call for free.
WHAT kind of phone do you want?
“Free” or discounted phones typically come with one- or two-year service contracts. If you don’t want a contract, you may need to pay full price for a phone or choose a prepaid option.
Location, location, location!
Make sure the service works where you need to use your wireless phone. Most carriers have coverage maps at their stores and on their Web sites, and representatives may be able to answer more precise coverage questions. Also ask local friends and co-workers about the carriers they use.
Keeping your number
If you’re already a wireless customer, you will usually be able to keep (or “port”) your current phone number when you switch carriers. Verizon offers a plan where you can switch your number for no additional cost.
Wireless carriers often offer rebates on new phones. Submit your paperwork by the offer expiration date and save a copy for your records.