Buying a mobile phone

A guide to buying a new mobile phone

Have you ever wondered what life was like before the invention of the mobile phone? It’s hard to imagine now that mobiles dominate our everyday life.

Although the mobile phone is primarily used for voice communication, the advancement of technology means the modern day mobile is capable of a number of other feats. From SMS messages for sending text, and MMS messaging for sending multimedia (photos, sounds and videos), to surfing the Web, listening to Internet radio, downloading music and reading the news, the rise of smartphones has made mobile phones much more than just a communication device.

Getting started

Before buying a mobile phone, you need to work out what you are going to be using it for. You might just need it for emergency calls, or the odd situation where you need to contact someone. On the other hand, you might use it as a business tool for scheduling meetings, downloading documents and checking your e-mail.

If you won’t be making too many calls, and don’t need any additional features, then a pre-paid account could be best for you. A pre-paid account begins with a starter kit, and includes a mobile phone number, registration instructions and call credit card. Some packages also include a handset. Calls are paid for with a recharge card or docket that contains a set dollar amount of call credits. Pre-paid accounts also allow you to recharge over the phone, on the Internet or even with a credit card.

For those who will be using their phone more often, a contract or post-paid plan may be the best option. This consists of signing up for a fixed period of time (usually 12 or 24 months) for a set monthly fee. There are also capped plans, which mean you only pay a certain amount per month if your usage doesn't exceed a maximum value.

Choosing a mobile phone

Choosing a phone can be a daunting task. Mobile phones cost anywhere between $50 and $1000, depending on features. An entry-level phone is capable of voice calls, voice mail and SMS messages and will have a phone book to store contact numbers, while a high-end handset can make video calls, connect to a wireless network, browse the Internet, capture digital photos and record video clips. The rise of smartphones has brought many features normally reserved for high end phones to the lower end of the market: as an example, a smartphone that can connect to the Internet, download apps and connect to a wireless network can be bought for as little as $100.

Mobile phones typically come in a candy bar, clamshell or slider form factor. Candy bar phones are the most common, especially in smartphones. These are narrow and long, and most can be operated with one hand. The clamshell, or flip-phone, has the advantage of a small size that opens up, usually to a keypad and screen. Some models may even swivel for taking photos. Slider phones, where the keypad slides out from underneath the screen, offer space for a screen on one side and keypad on the other, while keeping a neat, small shape. Some models even feature a swivel keypad that is used horizontally for two-handed operation.

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