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by Center for Personal Finance editors



With cellphone carriers consistently rolling out the "next big thing" in cellphones and smartphones, you may be thinking about purchasing one of the latest devices. But before you snap up the newest gadget or sign a contract, consider which phone and service plan will best fit your needs. The Federal Citizen Information Center offers these guiding questions:
  • What will you use the phone for? If you only want to use your phone for calling and texting, a conventional cellphone probably will work. But if you're looking for extra features—such as Web access, downloadable applications, and video or audio capabilities—a smartphone might be a better bet. Before you decide on a phone, make sure you're comfortable using it. Consider the size, shape, and the ease of using the keypad to make calls or send texts.
  • Where will you have service? Can you make calls locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally? Is there a trial period so you can "test drive" the phone's service quality once you leave the store?
  • What plan features are available? Decide how you want to pay: monthly for a set number of minutes, or pay-as-you-go. Both options may not be available for all phone models. If you're interested in a family-plan option, make sure it's also available for the phone you want. Understand other costs, such as data-plan fees and cancellation policies, before you sign up. Be sure to ask about special promotions that could help you get a deal. And don't be sweet-talked into purchasing phone insurance—it's often not worth the extra expense.

SOURCE: Federal Citizen Information Center

Published September 6, 2010

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