Mobile Phones: Spoilt for Choice

By: J Tillotson

Three out of four people in the UK now own at least one mobile phone. They've become so much a part of everyday life we wonder how we ever managed without them. But with so many different handsets, networks and features available, how do you choose which is for you?

A mobile phone may be a status symbol, and a sign that you are up with the latest technology, but don't forget that first and foremost it is a convenient device for getting in touch with someone on the move. So your first considerations should be the network and call package.

How much do you actually use your phone, or plan to use it? What times of the day will you be making calls? What networks have good signals in your area, and which ones are the majority of your friends on? These are all questions that should help you decide which network to go on, if you haven't already. Perhaps one gets good signal in your area but all your friends are on another; see if the first network does a cross-network deal. Maybe you intend to use your phone for work during the day, look for a tariff which gives either free minutes or a low daytime rate. A tariff which is only ?10 per month line rental may sound cheap, but if the calls are 25p per minute and the texts cost 16p each time, it's not really going to be that cheap unless you intend never to use your phone. Shop around and weigh up different tariffs and networks until you find one that will suit your usage and your pocket.

It's worth remembering that a pay as you go tariff generally has higher call and text charges, and you have to pay quite a high price for certain handsets as well. If you like having the latest technology and the cool new handsets it might be worth looking at a pay-monthly tariff. On most monthly packages you get free minutes or texts, or a mixture of the two. Go for whichever you think you will use the most. However, if you only use the phone sporadically and don't mind having a basic handset, a PAYG phone can save you a bundle.

Once you've got an idea of what network and price plan you need, look which phones are available on it. Now here's where you're really spoilt for choice. Make a list of all the features you want from a phone; camera, Bluetooth, mp3 player, voice messaging, WAP...there's seemingly no end to the extra things a phone can do. Most phone comparison websites will allow you to search different handsets depending on which features you select, so you can see at a glance which ones fit your choice. Read the reviews of each handset, if possible, so you can see what other people make of it. Others will allow you to put in your tariff requirements and give you a list of handsets and networks which offer these.

Consider taking out phone insurance if you have a more expensive model, especially if you're a little accident prone. Most policies will offer accidental damage and loss, and will replace your old phone with a new one if lost or stolen. Many will even cover your phone if stolen abroad. Alternatively, you can add your handset to an 'all risks' home contents insurance policy.

Compare the latest mobile phones and cheap mobile phones online. Look for pay as you go mobile phones if you don't want to pay monthly.

Cell Phones
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