However, shopping for a cell phone plan doesn't have to be any more complex than shopping for a new pair of tennis shoes. Selecting the proper cell phone plan is really just a matter of finding the provider that covers your area, provides enough minutes to cover your usage pattern, and includes any extra features, such as texting, that you might want to use.
The first decision you will need to make when selecting a cell phone plan is to pick the best provider for your area. It is important to know that not all cell phone companies cover all areas. In addition, some services will have dead spots where a cell phone will not work. Local salespeople may be reluctant to tell you about poor coverage or known dead spots. However, the carriers' websites usually have a map of the coverage that they have in the area, as well as any dead zones. There are also websites, such as mobiledia.com, that offers coverage maps, tower maps, consumer feedback, and links to the major carriers (Mobiledia). In addition, family and friends in the area can usually be the most reliable source of information. Once you have selected the carrier that has adequate coverage for your area, you can select the best plan that they have available that fits your specific needs.
To select the best plan for your needs you will need to determine when and how often that you use your wireless phone. Most plans are sold with a limited number of minutes that can be used for talking through the week during the day. In addition, many plans come with free nights and weekends. If you do most of your talking at night, you may be able to have a plan that has fewer daytime minutes. If most of your usage is during the day, you may want to get more daytime minutes. Don't underestimate your amount of use. Remember, your cell phone is always with you and turned on. It isn't surprising that almost two thirds of the respondents in a recent survey said they use their cell phone significantly more than a landline (The Cell Phone Challenge). Most plans are priced according to the number of daytime minutes available, so you will want to select a plan that accurately reflects your anticipated daytime use.
Once you know how many daytime minutes you need, you will need to find a plan that offers the extra features you want. Many plans have free long distance for those people who are away from family and friends. Text messaging may have a limited number of messages included, so you will want to be sure your plan includes enough. Texting more than the plan was designed for can be expensive, so if you plan on texting be sure to include plenty. You may also want video messaging or Internet browsing that are available for a small extra fee. There are also services that allow you to talk an unlimited amount of time to people that use the same provider. If a number of your friends have a specific service, then that might be worth checking out.
In conclusion, purchasing a cell phone plan can be daunting for the consumer that is confused by the advertising blitz that is constantly being waged by the competing cell phone companies. However, it is really just a matter of selecting the right provider, getting an adequate number of minutes, and selecting what additional features you plan on using. Do some research of the carriers in your area, check the Internet, and ask your friends what service they use. They will often know of any dead