Unless you decide to go with a pre-paid phone service, major cell phone carriers typically require a two-year commitment from you in order to cheaply obtain and use many of today’s most popular and desirable mobile handsets, including both feature phone and smart phone models. Signing up can be daunting, so here are a few things to look for and remember as you’re committing to a cell phone plan, including several tips that can save you money on your cell phone bill. Consider all before making a commitment – after all, early termination fees will apply.
Do the Math
Wireless carriers know what they’re doing when they charge you by the month instead of quoting you a yearly rate. It’s a lot more palatable to consider spending $100 a month than it is to consider that you’re paying $1200 over the course of the year. But since we often think of our income on scales of a year, make sure to multiply your projected bill by 12 to make sure it fits into your overall income, and that you’re comfortable making that commitment.
Know Your Limits
Make sure you and everyone on your plan has a clear understanding of their monthly limits for minutes, data usage and text messaging. Mobile phone providers love charging outrageous overage fees, so your best bet is to sign up for a plan that you know you won’t exceed, and then look at your usage over the first couple of months and adjust as appropriate. A good start: Look at the last six months of your current cell phone bills to get a sense of how many minutes, how much data, and how many text messages you send on average.
Be a Tweaker
Monitor your usage, and make sure you’re using a plan that’s right for you. Companies make it easier than ever to track your usage, whether it’s from the computer via your account portal or even via easy apps. Look at your actual usage in terms of time, texts and data limits, and if you’re going way under or way over your limits, investigate other plan options.
Know what happens if you cancel on the contract. Most services will have high cancellation fees in the first year, but they may diminish as you get closer to the end of your contract. Since life always seems to throw curveballs and changing circumstances at us, it’s good to know what will happen should you need to make an unexpected switch.
If you’re traveling abroad, or even think you’ll be close to another country (like in San Diego or Detroit for example), make sure you’re aware of the consequences of roaming. You can set your plan to not allow these types of charges in order to avoid any fees, but often you can find that signing up for an international plan for the duration of your trip is more reasonable than you might expect.
The old axiom for depreciating value used to be driving a car off a car phone lot, but these days it seems that the moment you commit to a new smartphone, a new and cooler one is announced or released days later, often of the same model. If you’re one of those who needs to be at the cutting edge as an early adopter, be prepared to pay full price for devices unless you’re within your plan’s window near the end of the contract which allows upgrade. Ask about this at the time of purchase so you know whether to upgrading is a realistic option for you or not.
Know How To Make Changes
Utilize the management tools your provider gives you. Know and remember your account password, and download any monitoring apps your provider offers. Make a habit to check in on these at least once a month, but it’s often useful to look a couple times so you can see how your usage is distributed as the month progresses. Even though mobile companies are out to make money (and they make a lot of it), they also provide great service and ease for their customers, it’s simply a matter of taking the time to access it.
Technology is synonymous with viruses, unfortunately, and just like home computers, our smartphones aren’t totally immune from the undesirable creatures that lurk in the digital jungle. In many regards, in fact, our cell phones now function like small PCs: They’re remarkably convenient, they’re capable little machines, and you need to protect them from viruses and malware. Luckily, there several of the best smartphone anti-virus programs are free, and will work hard to keep your handset safe.
Note that for iOS mobile device users, you have less to worry about if you have an iPhone (or an iPad, or any iOS device from Apple) that’s not jailbroken. Apple keeps tight restrictions on what becomes available for download in its App Store, which means that worms, malware, viruses and Trojans aren’t as likely to slip through. The situation is different if your phone is jailbroken (meaning the iOS device has been modified to allow for greater user control, including introducing installation alternatives that let you download application without visiting the App Store). Jailbroken iOS hardware is more susceptible to viruses.
You will definitely want to consider a mobile phone antivirus software program if your phone is an Android model too. Though Google makes efforts to keep viruses and malware out of Google Play (formerly the Android Marketplace), Android app developers have far fewer restrictions on what they can develop and upload to the marketplace. On one hand, this allows developers to exercise more creative freedom than what’s possible on the App Store. On the other hand, this makes it easier for troublemakers to do their thing. Though Google’s “Bouncer” service automatically scans Google Play for viruses, it’s not foolproof, so if you own an Android phone, you should still be vigilant.
There are several free ways you can protect your mobile phone from viruses and malware:
Avast! Free Mobile Security – Avast!’s free browser anti-virus is a popular name in computer protection, and that favorable reputation extends to its mobile anti-virus offering as well. Avast!’s mobile security provides protection against malicious downloads, and users can also install anti-theft features, a web shield, and take advantage of a privacy report.
IKARUS Mobile Security Lite – IKARUS Lite provides free and thorough protection against mobile viruses, spyware, malware, and Trojans. Moreover, it’s resource efficient (so it won’t bog down your phone), and its interface is user-friendly.
Lookout Mobile Security – Lookout’s free security protects you from malicious software, and it also provides features that let you secure your device and manage/back up your data using the web. Furthermore, you can utilize Lookout to help you find your phone if its lost, and/or remotely wipe out data if the worst happens.
Kaspersky Mobile Security – Kaspersky provides free virus scan and free malware removal tools for Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile phones. For ease of use, you can search for your phone’s model on the Kaspersky website.
Dr. Web Mobile Security Suite – You can trust a doctor, right? Dr. Web is light, user-friendly, and will even protect your phone against unknown threats. You can also use the program to protect against unwanted incoming calls. Dr. Web Mobile Security Suite is available for Android, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.
For more information on how to protect your smartphone from viruses, visit:
What’s the Best Android Anti-Virus? on PCAdvisor
Life in North America is rapidly evolving to the point where it’s getting difficult to get around without the convenience of a smartphone. Even if you’ve managed to survive up until now without one, you probably get wide-eyed stares from people when you mention that you don’t carry an iPhone or a Blackberry. You may as well tell people that you like to go outside without pants.
Hooking yourself up may seem like an intimidating venture, but adhering to five simple tips found in our smartphone buying guide can make the process much easier. Ask yourself: What will I use this phone for? What do I want out of it, specifically? Will I let my kids handle it, or will I keep them far, far away from it? Here are five tips on how to buy a smartphone:
Consider a feature phone – Sure, everybody in the world and several parallel universes owns a smartphone, but you don’t necessarily have to conform! Granted, having a phone on your hip isn’t a bad idea: it comes in very handy when you’re running late, and it’s great insurance in case an emergency happens. But if making phone calls on the go is all that interests you, you might want to sign up for a feature phone, which is basically a cell phone in its simplest form. No apps, few features (despite its name), and limited Internet connectivity—just good old fashioned phone calls whenever necessary. Unsurprisingly, feature phones are considerably cheaper than smartphones, and make a great “first cellular phone” for kids.
Weigh the virtual keyboard versus the real thing – The iPhone popularized the “virtual keyboard,” which operates via phones’ touch screens. Virtual keyboards are easy to get used to, but some people despise them, as well as the very idea of using them. If you believe you’re simply incapable of getting used to tapping out messages on a screen, keep in mind that many smartphones still offer real keyboards. A BlackBerry might be what you’re looking for instead.
Evaluate the camera/video chat functions on each phone – Cameras and video cameras are as common on smartphones as number pads, but the quality of these built-in digicams vary from phone to phone. Are you a big fan of snapping photos on the fly? You might want to research which cameras fire up quickest so you can grab those Kodak moments before they disappear. Quality should cross your mind, too, if you eventually want to print your photos and immortalize them in an album – many phones now offer up to 8MP digital stills. Similarly, research video capabilities: Does the phone offer dual cameras for videoconferencing? Shoot in 720p or 1080p high-definition? How easy is it to upload to the Web?
Consider wireless broadband and loading speeds – Most current phones operate on 3G high-speed connections, enough for Web surfing, and downloading music, movies and games on-demand. But some now offer 4G LTE downloads, which move considerably quicker – features which may come in handy if you enjoy lots of multimedia to go. Likewise, other phones come with dual- and quad-core processors, which make for faster number crunching, and can load your apps and programs more quickly.
Ponder screen size and what features make sense to you – Some phones emphasize form and fashion, and offer screens upwards of 4 inches with lots of high-quality touchscreen real estate. (The Samsung Galaxy Note’s is so big, it puts tablet PCs in mind.) Others focus on power and practicality, like the Droid RAZR Maxx, which offers over 20 hours of talk time. Consider what’s right for you based on your specific needs, and buy accordingly.
Think about how often will your kids be using the phone, and for what purpose – Android and Apple iOS smartphones are designed for ease of use, and each platform’s myriad apps and digital diversions provide colorful distractions galore when fussing seems imminent. Just make sure the kids understand that dropping, kicking, or otherwise abusing your new $300 investment (yours courtesy of manufacturers like Motorola, Samsung, Sony or HTC and carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon) is a very bad idea.
Think about games. Are you interested in them? – One of the biggest pulls for a smartphone is the ability to download and fiddle with games and applications (apps), but when it comes to app purchases, not all smartphones are created equal. While the game market for Apple’s iPhone is huge, Android phones and the Windows Phone 7 bear a much smaller and more scattered game library.
For more great tips on buying smartphones, visit:
[Picture Source: Smartphone Resource]