Best Cell Phone Deal?

Buying a cell phone can be overwhelming. It's easy to get lost in the wide choice of features and end up with less or more phone than you need. So here's a quick primer.

If you've never had a cell phone, it's tempting to just sign up for a 2 or 3 year plan especially with Telus and Rogers reps dangling a flashy free phone in your face. Do not sign up for any long term contracts! You don't know what kind of usage you're going to need. You don't want to be locked into paying $30 or $40 for 2 or 3 years on a plan that is way more than you need or end up paying extra charges each month because you have committed to less airtime than you need. If you're like me some months you might need a lot of air-time like around Christmas and other months you use very little. A pay as you go plan makes a lot more sense at least until you can gauge how much airtime you'll need.

In Canada, 7-11 has an excellent pay as you go plan with a few reasonably priced handsets carefully chosen to meet the needs of 90% of the users out there.

When I got my phone last July, 7-11 even offered a free phone when you bought $100 of air-time or $75 credit on any of their cell phones. The free phone was a basic, no frills GSM handset. The GSM is important. GSM phones have a chip inside that holds all your personal info like phone numbers. Upgrading a GSM phone is easy - transfer the chip to any other GSM phone and all your personal info is transferred.

The other important thing is that the $100 in airtime credit is valid for up to a year. With the other Canadian carriers you buy a $10, $20 or $30 cards that are only valid for 1 month. If it's your first phone then you have no idea how many minutes of air time you/lll need. It's a pain having to keep running out to the store to buy new cards and getting cut off in mid-sentence because your airtime has run out.

Now keep track of how much you use the phone for a few months (or until your airtime credit runs out which was almost a year for me). You'll gain the info you need to make a rational decision about whether a long-term contract makes sense for you. If you decide to switch to a long-term contract and new flashy phone just transfer the GSM chip to the new phone.

Basically avoid getting locked into a long-term contract until you have an idea of your needs. Check out the handset and plans at 7-11 Speakout. They are suppose to be having another free phone deal coming Nov 16. I'm planning to get a couple for people on my Christmas shopping list.

P.S.

I opted for the more advanced Nokia 5200 cell phone instead of the basic handset because it has a built-in MP3 player. The phone also has blue-tooth which makes it a snap to transfer music and video files back and forth between my computer. Two things that disappointed me are the crappy builtin camera. I was looking forward to using this on hiking, skiing and biking trips but it turned out to be grainy and low resolution. The phone also accepts micro SD memory cards. I imagined myself having an ultra-cheap 8 gigabyte ipod Unfortunately it only accepts memory chips of up to 2 GB.

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