Guide to Mobile Phone Service Plans

Why are you getting a mobile phone?

There are many reasons why people decide to get a mobile phone. For many people, having a mobile phone offers peace of mind, and in the event of an emergency, having quick access to a telephone can be crucial. For others, the mobile phone has become their primary telephone, even to the point of replacing the landline entirely. Still others use the mobile phone only occasionally, enjoying it simply for its convenience and portability, or for its low-rate or even unlimited long distance calling options.

What mobile features are you primarily going to be using?

Many mobile phones offer more ways to communicate than making or receiving voice calls. Text messaging (or SMS) is used by some as a way to quickly contact people by typing a message into the phone when making a call is inconvenient or unnecessary.

There are also data plans available on certain phones, which allow for internet access. This feature will allow you to check e-mail, as well as look up information on the go.

How frequently will you be using these features?

When comparing plans, it is good to be aware of how much of these additional features you will be using. Many plans offer an allotted amount of text or data included in the plan, with additional fees for going over the set amount. Other plans include no text messaging or data. Still other plans are designed for users who primarily communicate through text messaging and the internet, with limited voice options.

When considering these options, keep in mind that if you are on a plan with limited text or data options, and you then use text or data, you will be charged a measured rate per use. For example, if you have a phone plan that costs $30 a month with no text messaging, and you then send or receive 100 text messages that month, you will be charged for each text message sent and received. If the charge is $0.10/text, then an additional $10 would be charged to your phone bill for those 100 texts.

Conversely, some phone plans include a large or unlimited amount of text or data, which may be unnecessary to meet your mobile phone needs. In this case, you may be paying more for features you won’t even be using.

Monthly or Prepaid, which is best for you?

There are two general categories of plans available when purchasing a mobile phone. Monthly plans are plans which may or may not require a contract, and which you are then billed according to your usage every month. With monthly plans, you get access to the mobile network all month, and you don’t have to worry about adding money to your account in order for your phone to remain active. This is great for the user who has selected the appropriate phone plan for their needs, and consistently uses their mobile phone a certain amount every month. Be aware, however, that if you use your phone more than the plan you signed up for, you may find your monthly bill skyrocket with overage charges (i.e. talking over your allotted minutes, sending/receiving too many text messges, etc.)

On the other hand, prepaid plans, sometimes referred to as “pay-as-you-go” plans, require you to pay for the plan up front, before use. The advantage to this type of plan is that it prevents overage charges, as you can only use the phone for the length of time or dollar amount you’ve paid for it to be used. These plans also very rarely have contracts. On the other hand, once you’ve used the amount of time or money you’ve paid for in your account, your phone service will be turned off until you “top-up” your account. If your balance is depleted, you will not be able to make or receive calls or text messages.

Coverage: local, statewide, nationwide.

Where do you plan on using your mobile phone, and where are you calling to? These are two important questions to consider when comparing plans. While many mobile phone plans nowadays offer free long distance and free roaming, there are some that still do not. If you plan to make a lot of long distance calls with your phone, make sure that the plan you choose offers free nationwide long distance. If you plan on being able to use your phone outside of your home area, make sure your phone offers free roaming. Otherwise, you may incur additional fees for using your phone outside of the local network.

Keep in mind that no mobile phone always absolutely works everywhere. There are still areas of the country where mobile signals are weak or nonexistent. Always check with the mobile provider you are considering to find out whether or not their cell phones will get a signal in the areas where you plan to be using it.