Thursday, May 5, 2011

Technology Lesson: How To Buy A New Phone

I was asked last month if I could write a lesson about buying cellphones. I'm on my second phone with this plan—a plan I share with my parents (it's cost effective and I get to keep my old area code* )—and it's the only phone I have picked out on my own. I've been happy with my phone since I bought it in 2008 and hope to never replace it, so I turned to my mother, who upgrades every two years, and my sister, who was once plagued with phone troubles. Both have plenty of experience.

I interviewed both (over the phone!) and these are the tips I picked up from them:
  • Decide what you want in a phone before you look or buy. If you text a lot, you won't need a keyboard. This will eliminate many of your options. If you do text a lot, you might want to consider getting a phone with a QWERTY keyboard.

    Likewise, if you want a phone with a lot of features, or plan on buying or keeping a data plan, a smart phone might be right for you.
  • Not all phones take videos and photos. Many phones with cameras do not take videos. Consider whether or not this is important to you. (And realize that not all cameras are good quality!)
  • Read the reviews for the phones that interest you. Check your carrier's Web site for reviews. (I would recommend reading reviews online before looking at the phone in the store. -K) Check reviews from tech Web sites, the manufacturer, and Consumer Reports. (Most of the phones reviewed are smartphones.)
  • Most carriers will upgrade for free. (And give you a discount on phones that are not free.) Log-in to your account online to see which phones are free. If you can't find out online, or you want to talk to a live person, call the toll free number for your carrier and see which models are free. Find out what kind of additional deals might be available.
  • Most of these phones are not smartphones. Most will not include keyboards.
  • Consider the size of the phone versus your pocket. (Perhaps you are awesome like my mom and my friend Erin, and live life without a purse! -K
  • Bring your old phone with you to the store--or measure it--to compare with your new phone. Check reviews online--clarity of sound and volume control are important.
  • Manuals don't come with phones anymore. Ask for a manual. Usually you need to contact the manufacturer of your phone.
  • Ringtones do not transfer from one phone to another. (You might want to get your ringtone for free online instead. -K)
  • There's a $10 fee to transfer contacts, but my Grandpa never pays. He says, "I'm old, can you do this for me?" Verizon obliges and does not pay him. (He is 89 and lives in North Dakota.) If you ask nicely, and are not 25, you might not have to pay either. (I like transferring manually, because I can clean out my phone. -K)
*I guess the law would allow me to keep my old number. It's an old habit.

Additional Resources:
Three phone tips for antisocial people like me that hate phones, Lifehacker
How to Buy a Cell Phone, PCWorld
Buying a new cell phone, and your questions answered, Cnet

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