Guide to Buying a Mobile Phone

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A mobile phone is no longer simply a device with which you stay in contact with others. Today, a mobile phone is a multi-function fashion accessory, as necessary to your appearance as a hairstyle. From how the phone ‘flips’ open in front of your friends, to the groove of the ring tone, your mobile phone is a statement about who you are and how you address the world. And as every parent of a thirteen year old knows, you simply are not a ‘whole person’ without one.

To purchase a mobile phone, you need to address a number of issues, not the least of which is who you will be shelling out a small fortune to each month, and under what conditions, and what you want from your phone service. On top of that, you will want to decide which handset suits best and what extras and accessories you want to go along with it. Myshopping.com.au is where you can compare a range of different offers from different phones and service providers very easily, and arrive at a decision that works for you.

Mobile Phones

The centre of communications

Different phones suit different people, but at the heart of the decision is the question: Is your mobile phone the centre of your communications. The answer to this question will mean different things to people with different needs.

The student

The student’s mobile phone is very definitely at the centre of communications, but quite clearly students have little money to splurge and therefore need to buy a phone that has access to economically efficient communications. The trendy phone will be important, but at a low cost. It will need to have excellent texting facility, be able to accommodate ring tones, and be easy to carry. Of lesser concern are issues such as camera and video capacity.

The busy parent

Whether working out of the home or not, a busy parent needs to be able to be in touch at odd times and in odd places. This person will be seeking a functional handset with a good network capacity. Photographic features are handy as are texting features and long talk-time.

The executive

The executive is constantly on the go, and is always in touch while on the go. This person’s phone will have added features such as a teledex, web connectivity, video and photographic features. Additional accessories will include ‘hands-free’ capacity and portability across travel zones.

The traveller

The traveller’s phone needs most of all to be portable across travel zones and able to access networks in international zones. Long battery life, video, photographic and web connectivity features are all important features considered by the traveller.

Phone choices

At the heart of your decision, is which phone to choose? Some limitations may apply according to the technology you need. If you live in a rural area, or travel to the country a lot, you will likely need access to a CDMA network, and not all handsets are compatible. The majority of Australia’s urban population (95%) is covered with GSM technology, and there are a huge number of handsets available that are compatible.

The technology

Other technologies that may affect both your choice of handset and your choice of service provider are the GPRS technology, designed for sending data over the GSM network, enabling mobile phones to access the internet and receive email messages; and the PTT service (Push To Talk), a technology that allows mobile phones to be used like two-way radios.

The handset

The next step might be to decide on the type of handset you favour. Handsets come in different configurations, from the ‘candybar’ format (long and slim) that is able to fit into a protective carrying case and be operated by one hand. The screen and keypad are limited by the size and shape of the handset. Flip-phones and slider phones have the advantage of small size, but their screens and keypads can be larger because of the use of two halves of a ‘clamshell’ case. Some slider phones have keypads on a swivel, offering a two handed operation. A smartphone has a fully functional keypad that enables the editing of Microsoft word documents, presentations and spreadsheets.

Screens and memory

Colour screens are now standard in most models, but size, resolution and colours can vary, from between 101×80 pixels to 353×288 pixels; and between 4000 and 262,000 colours. The better the screen resolution, the better backgrounds and graphic images can be displayed. Mobile phones also now have onboard memories from between 16MB and 96MB (although this is a standard that changes quickly). Additional memory (500MB or more) is available on phones dedicated to gaming and mp3 playing, and some phones also offer slots for adding additional memory cards.

Battery and camera

Battery re-charge life of a phone is determined by the number of features and the amount of talk time used, but today’s phones range between 10 and 14 days of standby time and 2 to 8 hours of talk time. Obviously memory intensive use shortens the re-charge time. Even the most basic phones now come with an in-built digital camera. Some now also have flash capacity, auto-focus, self-timing, continuous shooting and zoom and macro facilities. Many offer low-resolution video recording and can be used for video conferencing and receiving streaming video. Optimally, a camera with more than one mega pixel is desirable.

Connections and options

A USB port on a mobile phone enables it to be connected to your computer to transfer files. Wireless connectivity using bluetooth and infra-red allows connection between devices such as PCs and PDAs, as well as providing hands-free utilities. You may also want a voice-activated dialling feature, and voice recording functions that enable you to send MMS messages and voice memos. Phones with polyphonic ring tone capacity enable you to have a more musical ringtone, and produce a better sound.

At Myshopping.com.au you can compare all of the features of the different brand names and the prices offered by different vendors. This takes a lot of the difficulty out of narrowing down exactly what you want from you mobile phone.

Connection choices

There are essentially two choices for how you want to be connected to your phone network: a usage plan and term contract, or a pre-paid option. All service providers can offer both and under Australian legislation, your phone number is portable between service providers. Some however may charge a fee for early termination of a contract, and some may charge a fee for transferring your number from another service provider, and some may charge a fee for transferring you number to another provider. These fees are entirely at the discretion of the service provider and have no basis in actual network cost whatsoever. If it is charged, it is charged simply because they can.

You need to give some thought to how you intend (or do) use your phone. Call plan contracts are offered on the basis of how many minutes (or in some cases, 30 second units) of call time you use, and at what time of day. Carriers promote higher costs for high volume times of the day, and often reduce costs, or offer ‘free’ time during low times. Other low cost offers are made for calls between the phones on the same carrier network, while others offer discounts for bundling packages of home phone, mobile phone and Internet account. It’s important to read the conditions attached to any of these offers. Free calls between midnight and six am may be of little value to you if you’re sleeping at that time.

Pre-paid is popular choice, especially if you don’t make many calls. It also enables a better management of limited funds. When deciding on your plan, look at costs such as ‘flagfall’ costs and the different rates at different times of the day. Also check the cost of calls when you exceed your ‘cap’ or limit. It is often in this area that the carrier can make money out of unsuspecting users.

Service providers

The carriers of mobile phone services in Australia include Telstra, Optus, 3 (Hutchinson), Orange (Hutchinson), Vodafone, Virgin, B and a number of smaller carriers, or agencies who provide services on behalf of other carriers.

Each of the major carriers can offer you the connection to their network on contract plan or pre-paid, as well as sell you a pre-packaged handset. Quite often a contract will include a monthly service and you pay for a number of minutes of talk or sms connections, as well as pay for the handset. Once the contract is ended, you are free to change the plan to a different one, or change carriers altogether.

Sometimes the plan you select is not right for your usage, and you find that after a few months, you could reduce your costs by changing to a different plan. Some carriers enable you to do this mid-contract without any extra penalty; others may charge you a fee to change your plan. Study any plan carefully and imagine how you will use your phone to take best advantage.

You may also need to compare the services offered by the different carriers, especially their capacity to service your area within their network. There’s not a lot of point in being with a carrier whose network doesn’t enable anyone to call you when you’re at home.

Use Myshopping.com.au to compare different to find one that suits you. But before you sign on to any mobile phone plan, be sure you understand all of the conditions attached to that contract.

Andrew Gates is a writer for Australian comparison shopping site MyShopping.com.au. MyShopping.com.au helps you compare mobile phones and buy online from top-rated online stores. You can also read mobile phones reviews and specifications.