By May 16, 2008

Choosing a mobile device

Today’s mobile phones are computers, cameras – even route-finders – all rolled into one – but which is best for your needs? Bobbie Bhogal, founder of, offers a quick and easy guide.

Mobile phones have evolved into amazing multi-functional devices more akin to “beaming up Scotty” than making phone calls. You can snap pictures, record videos, send and receive emails, play games and listen to hours of music – even find your way via GPS satellite. So what deals make the best sense for your needs?

Your profile, your phone
The best mobile phone deals are contracts that are designed to meet your specific needs and do not expect you to squeeze your daily requirements into an inflexible, “nearest fit” package.

The “best” deal is the most appropriate deal for you at this time in your life and depends on your way of working and socialising: your particular lifestyle. It is an arrangement between the phone provider, the network operator and you that ensures you have all phone features that are important to you, plus the flexibility, the amount of inclusive minutes and texts and the overall service that best match your way of living.

This is your “caller profile”, in mobile phone parlance. The answers to questions such as “Do you use your phone mostly off-peak or during peak times?” “How often do you pick up voicemail messages” and “How many text messages do you send on average per week?” help define your specific profile. An astute mobile phone provider – or an intelligent filtering system on-line – will then match your profile to several deals, balancing different features and package details. You are then able to make an informed choice and find the best mobile phone deal for you.

What might well look a daunting task at first sight – so many different phones and varying deals – is, in fact, straightforward and fast once you have prioritised what you really need from a mobile phone. That’s need to work and live your life, as opposed to what could just be fun to have.

With the fast filtering systems and easy feature/price comparisons available, buying a mobile phone on-line makes good sense. A high-street phone shop has significant additional overheads to an on-line outlet and that advantage can be passed on to you, the customer, in value-added deals. So why not get thinking about your lifestyle right now, start comparing phones and packages and see just how quickly the best deal for you pops up?

“Mickey Mouse” phones?
When shopping for a mobile phone, most people have the same two questions high on their list: “Should I choose a prepaid service plan or a regular monthly billed plan?” and “What about connecting to the Internet?” Let’s look at them in turn.

Prepaid minutes can be spread over several months, usually two or three, so if you only use your phone occasionally, it can be less expensive than paying every month for airtime that you won’t use. There is no credit check involved – unlike monthly billing arrangements – no monthly service fees, monthly bill, security deposits or contracts to sign.

You can keep much better control of costs – you know exactly how much you will spend because you purchase the air time up front. There no need to disclose your real identity, either – think of all those thrillers in which the character is presented with a new mobile phone: you can guarantee it is prepaid and therefore anonymous. In most cases, you can activate a prepaid phone plan under any name you wish, even Mickey Mouse!

Prepaid is more expensive on a per minute basis. Typically, a minute will cost twice as much in a prepaid plan compared to a monthly plan, so it is well worth checking the plan’s details before buying. Sometimes, not all services are included – you may not be able to surf the wireless Web, for example. Beware, too that extras may cost a lot more: long distance calls, for instance, may be charged a premium fee over what monthly consumers pay.

In short, you can buy and use a prepaid phone and calling card almost as you would with a disposable camera: beautifully hassle-free; the downside is you will pay a higher fee for each minute.

Prepaid or not?
If all you want is a phone to have in case of emergency and rare calls; if you know you will not use more than 20 minutes per month, then a prepaid plan is ideal for you. If your credit rating is shot, then prepaid is usually the only solution (although some companies will also accept you in a monthly plan but only with a huge deposit).

Business travelers are usually served better by national or international “one rate” plans, paying only one rate, no matter if you are in another country. However, you pay for that privilege, so occasional travelers needing a phone may well be best served buying a prepaid phone in the country they are visiting and buying a card when they arrive.

Monthly contract phones offer the best deals for minutes and texts but the do tie you in for a minimum period (12 or 18 months). They also enable you to have a superb phone effectively for free, often with regular upgrades.

WAP goes the cell phone
WAP or the Wireless Web refers to browsing a stripped-down version of the Web right on the screen of your mobile phone. It can be used for retrieving email, placing orders, looking up movies, restaurant listings or sports results, for example.

If that appeals, then choose a phone with a “minibrowser” – the special kind of browser used for surfing the net on a small mobile phone screen. Look for a graphic browser, not just a text-based browser. Also, if you think you will browse the wireless Internet often, you may want to consider buying a PDA phone – a cellular phone with a larger than average display.

All modern digital cell phones can be used as if they were a modem. With a data cable, short-range wireless Bluetooth or often your laptop’s infrared connection, you can use the phone to connect to your usual ISP while on the road, or to your mobile phone company’s data service (usually requiring an additional subscription).

Check what kind of data speed the phone you are examining supports: GPRS, EDGE, 3G and the new HSDPA (3.5G) services (such as on the Nokia N95 or the HTC TyTN II).

Whether it’s the cool exterior, the sleek lines and slim form factor, or perhaps the 5 megapixel camera, GPS or superior music-playing functions that appeal, the important thing is that your mobile phone does what it needs to for you at the moment. It can be a business tool, a fashion statement, a personal safety device – or all three at once. And with the right package of minutes and texts, it can even be fun!

Story by: Bobby Bhogal

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Posted in: Editorial

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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