How to Choose a Device or Plan .
Whether you’re someone whose mobile phone never leaves their hand, someone who wants a “just in case” phone, or someone who is looking for a plan for your newest IoT device, wireless providers offer a variety of options that will meet your needs and budget.
To help you make informed choices about your wireless service, America’s wireless providers created a “Consumer Code for Wireless Service.” The Code is a checklist of 12 principles and practices for wireless service, such as offering free notifications when you’re approaching data limits that might carry additional charges.
Here are some other factors and tips to help you when considering a wireless plan or device:
Postpaid or Prepaid, Usage and Billing
Postpaid plans include a monthly contract to cover a specified amount of data usage, and for family plans, a set number of devices. You have the option to upgrade or add services at any time. Before you sign a contract (or make any changes), make sure you know the cost and any potential fees associated with your plan, such as early termination fees (ETFs) or usage overage fees. It’s important to note that a number of providers do offer to pay off your ETFs to switch to their network.
If you want to spend a certain amount of money each month or pay as you go, a prepaid plan that offers a specified amount of data may be best. There’s no contract and no chance for overage charges—unless you proactively add more data or minutes—but prepaid plans may cost more per GB of data than postpaid, and you may not have all the same choices for devices or services.
If you’re a person who wants to have the newest device as soon as it comes out, you may want to look for promotions or plans that give you the opportunity to upgrade often.
Location, Coverage and Roaming
Take a look at the wireless provider’s coverage map so you know what kind of service you will have in the different locations you frequent. Understand how your provider handles any roaming coverage.
If you prefer a certain device, keep in mind that some device brands and models may not be available from all wireless providers. In addition, due to technical differences on wireless networks, the device may not be optimized or work on other networks.
If you’re an international traveler you should check with your provider before you travel to make sure your device works when outside the U.S. and check international talk, text, and data coverage fees. Some wireless providers may also offer a rental device and plan for use in other countries. Wireless providers also offer usage alerts, account management tools, tips and customer service support to help consumers connect and manage their bills when they travel abroad.
Device Operating System, Features and Apps
Determine the best operating system for you—such as Android or iOS (Apple)—as well as the devices and features that will suit your needs by thinking through how you intend to use the device, researching devices online, or contacting your wireless provider for more information.
If the device you like best doesn’t come with certain features, there may be an app that performs a similar function. For example, if you want the ability to remote lock, erase or track your smartphone in case it’s ever lost or stolen, there are a variety of apps available for download if the feature is not native on your device.
The cost of the device may vary depending on whether you buy it unlocked, trade in an old device, buy the device outright, or pay in installments.
Used, Refurbished, and Certified Pre-Owned Wireless Devices
Buying a secondhand device can save you money and reduce your environmental impact. There are three types of secondhand devices:
- Used. Purchased from a private individual
- Refurbished. These have typically been repaired and tested and are often sold by the device manufacturer or another vendor.
- Certified Pre-Owned. These are refurbished and deemed in factory-quality condition. They also come with a warranty, and are often sold by the device manufacturer, service provider, or another vendor.
Before purchasing a secondhand device, it’s critical to verify the status, condition, purchasing/refund policies, and compatibility of your device. Certified Pre-Owned devices will typically come with this information pre-verified.
Status. This step is particularly important for purchasing a device from a private individual. Verify that the device hasn’t been labeled lost or stolen—which can make it impossible for you to use. You may check the status of your IMEI, or unique phone identifier, through your provider or the Stolen Phone Checker.
Condition. You should check the device for damage and workability, including:
- Cracks/dents to the screen and body of the device
- Moisture damage by locating the moisture indicators (often near the battery or SIM card tray)
- Ability to charge
- A working headphone jack
- Responsiveness to your commands
Purchasing/refund policies. When buying a secondhand device, make sure you are protected if the device is faulty, whether through purchase protection, a return policy, or a warranty.
Compatibility. Different wireless providers use different technologies and spectrum to power their networks. That means some devices won’t work as well or at all on networks they weren’t designed for. Research the specific model that works with your carrier before purchasing.
Device Insurance and Extra Protection
A new phone may cost hundreds of dollars, so you may want to consider insuring your phone as an important part of your wireless service. If your device is lost or stolen, insurance can help cover the cost of replacement.
Accessibility Plans and Features
If you are a senior or have disabilities, there are a variety of devices, apps and service plans available to meet your accessibility needs. AccessWireless.org is a great resource help identify your device and service options.