Mobile Phones: What’s Best For You?

by AJ Pettersen · 11 comments

The last 10 years in the United States have seen a significant increase in cell phone usage. I was unable to get a phone until I was 16 (my parent’s rule) and even then, the phone only had calling and minimal texting capabilities. Today, I can ask a random 6 year old what the weather is like and he or she can pull up the temperature, wind speed, and 10 day forecast on their new iPhone. Mobile phones have become a significant part of many people’s lives, as they are a great way to stay connected. But they can also come at a great cost. What is best for you?

Choosing the Right Provider

Choosing the right cell phone provider is important. Some companies offer the best phones, while others offer the cheapest prices. There are a few things to keep in mind when you are shopping for a cell phone company:

  • Do they offer a phone you want?
  • Do they offer competitive prices for your situation?
  • What is their contract like?


Certain phones are more prevalent with certain companies. If you are looking to use a specific phone, you need to find a provider that is compatible with the device. The pricing plans can also affect which company you decide to go with. Some companies offer excellent packages for single individuals, while others specialize in family plans. How many people are going to be on your plan? What extras do you need (texting, data, etc.)? Mobile phone contracts can be very binding at times, so take your time to research the best option before taking the plunge. Are you looking for more freedom? Or a discount for an upgrade every two years?

Buying the Phone

My first phone had a pull out antennae and was one of the first mobile phones with a color display. Still, I didn’t pick the most expensive device available at the time. Nowadays a phone can put you back around $300 if you get a top of the market phone, and that’s assuming you agree to a two year contract. To buy the device without a new contract you may pay over $500. I don’t know about you but if I am going to spend $500 of my money on something, I will take some time to consider the features and benefits first.

My dad has always been old school when it comes to phones. He recently upgraded to something newer, but had a simple phone with minimal controls for a number of years. This fit him best. Do you want a fully equipped phone? Or something simpler? The iPhone is awesome, but you may not need to pay for one if you won’t use it.

The Contract

Signing up for a multi-year contract will get you a discount on a phone and they will give you a number of special offers to go along with your commitment. But is this right for you? Do you really want to pay more every month just to get a discount up front? Or would you rather buy a phone outright and pay less per billing cycle?

Contracts are great for some, as they can seem like a good money saver, but they keep you locked in at a certain rate for the duration of your contract. This can be good if your rate is cheap or you are grandfathered into a certain price (cheap texting, data, etc. ), but bad if you aren’t satisfied with your service or the company.

What’s Best For You

Which route to take all comes down to individual preferences and situations. But whatever the case may be, it literally pays to take however long you need to figure out most sensible way forward before you make a $100 a month commitment for two straight years. What is best for one person may not be best for another. What is the best plan for you?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John Poff September 5, 2012 at 6:02 am

I recently completed a two-year contract with a cell phone provider, T-Mobile. What tends to happen is that the monthly rate creeps up over the course of the two years. Although I started off paying about $50 per month, by the end it was over $90 per month. I recently switched to Cricket, which is prepaid so there’s no contract. The new phone itself was about $500, and the service is $50 per month, easy to pay online at their website. Oh, and I was able to download “Alice in Wonderland” free for nothing. Doesn’t get much better than that!

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John Poff September 5, 2012 at 6:03 am

Whoops, sorry : the phone was $200, not $500.

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Lance@MoneyLife&More September 5, 2012 at 8:57 am

Don’t forget to evaluate the service in the area you will be using the phone the most. Some carriers have horrid service in some areas while other carriers have spectacular service in the same area.

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Garrett September 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

At this point the only thing I can say for sure about mobile phone service is that contracts are completely dead to me. It seems every time I get a new phone there is something I hate after a few months about the reception in an area I use it often or even just the customer service.

From this point on it’s all about just prepaid or some sort of month to month plan. It seems crazy to me that we all so willingly will sign up for a phone for two to three years when there is almost nothing else we would commit to contractually for that long.

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Veronica @ Pelican on Money September 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm

I’ve had a strong urge to get a smart phone to use the web on the go, but have had a decent time resisting that urge. So far I’m on the T-Mobile prepaid plan for $15/mo minimum. It’s not as good as the net10 plan I was on before but Net10′s service areas were terrible. Contracts got the best of me a while back when I had an absolutely terrible experience with a company which I’m not sure is in business anymore. Phone plans no more.

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Marbella September 6, 2012 at 3:01 am

The phones today contain lots of unnecessary things for me, I control only what I need before I decide which phone and which company. I have changed phone company several times and got amazing offer every time.

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Krystyna September 6, 2012 at 7:58 am

I have to say that this was an extremely disappointing article. I was hoping for some answers but it looks like this was only written with the right keywords for Google ads. Sad.

As for my phone, my contract with Verizon, which covers three phones, has been lapsed for over two years. I am not chomping at the bit to sign on with them again. I thought I’d pick up a Smartphone for business purposes (processing credit cards, etc) and got a Tracphone with the intention of switching to SmartTalk. Then I learned that the unlimited data really isn’t unlimited at all and that it’s no good for things like Pandora.

And so I sit … confused … waiting for my phone to crash and burn.

I’m still looking for an answer. Didn’t get it here.

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KM September 6, 2012 at 8:33 pm

To me it looked like an ad for Apple. That or the author thinks the iPhone is the only smartphone out there.

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Paul September 7, 2012 at 1:36 am

I am living and working in China. Since I came here in 2009 I am amazed at the difference in mobile phone costs in foreign countries compared to the US. Almost no one with any sense ever buys into a contract. We buy our phone and sign up with a carrier and usually pay as we use the phone. I have been with the same carrier and my rate per minute has decreased to the point that I am paying less than a half cent per minute whether I talk or send text messages; no price difference here and texting is actually faster than carrying on a conversation if reception is poor for voice. I just bought new TCL Android phone with all the bells and whistles for the equivalent of $US190. I also got an International calling plan of 100 minutes per month for 30 RMB ($US4.76). Why is it that mobile phones and usage fees in the US are so expensive in comparison to the rest of the world?

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Merci Greene of EliteCarpetCleaning.com September 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm

What mobile phone can you suggest to a person who does not do business on phones but do like apps and very techy?

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Zaslužek na internetu September 11, 2012 at 4:14 am

I was a mobile freak once. Then I bought iPhone.

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