How Do I Choose the Best Cell Phone Provider?

Gabriele Sturmer

Although there are many decisions to be made when you choose a cell phone provider, you should consider many factors to find the provider that is right for your needs. Not all cell phone providers cover all of the areas where you plan to use your phone, and some that cover many places charge a roaming fee if you use the phone outside of its major areas. You'll also need to consider the plans and features that are available and find a provider that supports the type of phone you want to use.

Coverage is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a cell phone provider.
Coverage is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a cell phone provider.

When choosing a cell phone provider, coverage is one of the most important factors. Although a cell phone provider might say it has coverage for your area, the coverage levels can vary greatly and sometimes involve dead zones where reception isn't available. The major cell phone providers have coverage maps on their websites that let you see the level of coverage in your city and possibly even at your address. You should use these maps to check all of the areas where you expect to use your phone. If the coverage map shows areas that involve roaming charges, you should try to find a provider that has the least amount of roaming areas as possible.

Dead zones are areas where cell phone reception is not available.
Dead zones are areas where cell phone reception is not available.

After you find a provider that has sufficient coverage, you should compare each provider's plans to find an affordable option that includes the features you need. If you only need a phone to use for rare occasions or emergencies, you should consider prepaid or pay-per-use plans that only charge you for the airtime and features you use. If you plan to use mobile Internet and text messaging, you should compare data packages or, possibly, unlimited service plans that have unlimited airtime, text messages and mobile Internet. Most plans that are not prepaid require you to sign a contract for a year or two and charge a termination fee if you cancel before the contract expires. You should make sure the cell phone provider will fit your needs at least until the contract expires.

Cell phone providers offer different packages with limits on features such as text and data usage.
Cell phone providers offer different packages with limits on features such as text and data usage.

After looking at the plans for your chosen cell phone provider, you should also check out what kinds of phones are available and how much the phones cost. If you prefer smartphones, you might choose a provider that caters to the latest models. If you want a basic phone, some providers offer free handsets if you choose a plan with a contract.

Cell phone providers might have specific users in mind when marketing their products.
Cell phone providers might have specific users in mind when marketing their products.
Cell phone providers typically offer different features with the phones they sell.
Cell phone providers typically offer different features with the phones they sell.

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Discussion Comments

nsimp5

@ethinker80 - Yes, freedom is important. But what about statistics that show CDMA phones have better performance than GSM?

I think performance matters more to me when comparing cell phone providers.

ethinker80

The ability to switch cell phone providers is a big factor to consider. CDMA carriers do not let you switch companies, while GSM carriers do.

This would be a big selling point to me; freedom to change when I want to is important.

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