How to Buy a Cell Phone

by Nate Heasley for Digital Living Today

Buying a cell phone can be a very messy business. There are dozens of phone brands and models and oodles of service providers with a dizzying array of rate plans. To the average consumer, figuring out what’s what can take on almost nightmarish dimensions. The old way of doing things meant going to each wireless provider’s bricks and mortar store and placing yourself in the hungry maw of their salespeople. Or you could go to each provider’s website, endlessly browsing through option after option with no idea of what it all means. New services like,, and are changing all that. Now, with just a few clicks, you can navigate this process with relative ease and feel confident at the end that youve made an informed decision.

These cell phone portals are well organized so you can browse the latest models, compare service plans, and even check out the sound quality of the various providers using’s “Wireless Test Drive” which lets you actually listen to connections made via each providers network (in your very neighborhood!).

These services take the novice through a step-by-step interview process, asking simple questions like how often you plan to use your phone, what sort of calls you’ll be making (e.g. mostly local or long distance), whether you travel a lot, etc. After deciding on your usage-type, the sites show you a comparison of each of the major providers’ options: how many minutes, at what cost, and the “extras” you’ll get, like voice mail, text-messaging, WAP browsing. After deciding on all these features, you finally get to pick a phone. While this may seem backwards, it’s important to remember that when buying a phone, it’s really the service that you’re buying — the phone is the last step you need to make.

The best thing that online phone portals provide, aside from a little education and a streamlined selection process, are discounts. There are all sorts of online promotions that you can get through these services. While it’s still a good idea to visit bricks and mortar stores to get the feel for the phone(s) you’re interested in, if you buy in a store, you’ll be missing out on some great deals that you can only get via the Web.

Using the power of the Internet to sort through all the mumbo-jumbo of cellular provider’s hype makes buying a cell phone much simpler. So if you’ve been waiting to buy one till untangled the Gordian knot of potential options, let your mouse do the heavy lifting so you can finally go wireless!

***DLT Tip: If you’re suspicious of these phone portals objectivity (they do broker the phone and service purchases, after all), don’t be. Although they get a commission when you buy through them, they get a commission no matter which provider you choose, so it’s all the same to them. But just to be safe, once you’ve narrowed down your choices, search on your favorite tech review sites for a trustworthy second opinion before you buy.

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