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samsung cell phones
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total wireless cell phones

So Many Cell Phones

If you haven’t looked for a new cell phone in a while, you may be paying a price for your loyalty—or your inertia. In a recent survey of over 103,000 Consumer Reports members, more than half of those who switched providers in the previous year said they saw a drop in their monthly bill. After making the shift, some respondents said they got more reliable coverage, a bigger data allowance, and better customer service.

If you’re considering a new plan, you might want a new phone as well. Have your eye on that top-of-the-line Apple or Samsung model? In the past, getting a new phone meant locking yourself into a multi-year contract that had multiple financial disadvantages for consumers. But those offers are now long gone. Now you can lease a new phone like a car, pay it off in interest-free installments, or buy it outright and enjoy a lower monthly bill. 

And before you sign up, think about how much data you need. Some people don’t require that much and sign up for more expensive plans than they need. But if you stream a lot of music or movies over your cellular network, an unlimited plan may be a smart move.

Follow these steps to find the best service and phone for your lifestyle—and budget.

Android

If you want a wide choice of phones, you’ve come to the right OS. Google’s Android platform supports the largest variety of hardware from handset makers such as HTC, LG, and Samsung. Options include everything from compact models to phones with displays larger than 6 inches.

The Android OS is highly customizable, thanks to widgets and other tools for tweaking phone controls, as well as the desktop’s overall look and feel. Android’s native Google search engine, Maps app, and cloud-based Drive and Photos services are among the most widely used smartphone apps (even among iPhone users).

Android gives users precise control over what personal information individual apps can access. Now, on an app-by-app basis, you grant or deny permission for an app to access such personal data as your location, your contacts, and other potentially sensitive information. 

The major drawback to Android is that many phones are sold with older versions of the OS, and users don’t always get updated in a timely way. However, Google says it’s working on a solution that will allow updates to be pushed through more quickly.

Data plans for cell phones

If you get a smartphone, you’re going to need a data plan. In fact, most carriers require you to get one when you order a phone.

  • Data plans enable you to access the Internet while out of range of Wi-Fi signal
  • Choose from an individual plan or a sharable plan across multiple devices
  • Data plans range from 1GB to unlimited per month
  • The monthly data plan to choose depends on how much media streaming and downloading you plan to do while away from Wi-Fi
  • Buy Unlocked

    Although buying an unlocked phone may not save you money at checkout, it can be a better value in the long run. Unlocked phones give you the freedom to shop around and move between carriers for the best deal. And they tend to have less bloatware (preinstalled software) than carrier phones, so you’re less likely to need to add more storage. 

    Shop Online

    Although most carriers and big-box shops have the same pricing as you’ll find online, that doesn’t mean you’re getting the best deal. Carrier websites frequently have promotions for discounted activation fees and promotional gift cards you won’t find in stores.

    Get Last Year’s Flagship

    Sure, you can spend a few hundred dollars on a brand-new mid-range phone, but you also might be able to score the same price on one of last year’s flagship models that likely offer better specs and performance. When new phones are released, older models are usually discounted, and carriers frequently offer the same, or similar, promotions on these phones as they do on the new versions. 

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