There is a range of different devices and contracts available, providing mobile communication solutions to suit every consumer.
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to choosing a mobile phone plan to suit you and your needs. The features of the new contract that are important to you as well as managing your mobile budget all need to be considered.
First of all, take care if buying second-hand mobiles from people you don’t know:
Buying second-hand mobiles online or at auctions can be risky because they may have been reported lost or stolen, or the IMEI may be blocked and consequently the phone will not work.
Check the mobile’s status here at http://www.lost.amta.org.au/ by entering the mobile’s IMEI number. It only provides details of phones reported lost or stolen at the time of the inquiry. There can be a 72-hour lag between when a mobile is reported lost and stolen to the carrier and showing “blocked” on the website. If you buy a mobile that’s been reported lost or stolen and blocked, the carrier will not unblock it.
So, let’s get started…
- What’s your budget? Think carefully about your budget for the new phone purchase and the carriers monthly contract. Think why you want a mobile phone and determine what is important to you. There are numerous types of call plans, to suit every need and budget. There are also services available to help you keep track of what you spend and consider whether this would help you manage your cash flows.
- What is your expected usage? How often will you be using the phone, at what time of day and what will be your average call length? Will you be using the phone mostly for voice calls, international calls or is it for just texting friends? Understand your usage patterns and these will help determine what type of plan is best for you and your budget!
- What types of plans are available? There are four basic types of service agreement: fixed-term contracts, monthly plans, pre-paid or leasing. Pre-paid is ideal if you want to ensure you stay within a specified budget. Getting a pre-paid first is also a good way of finding out what your usage is without getting into trouble by over spending naively. It will help you decide what type of plan might best suit you.
Monthly plans allow you the flexibility of receiving monthly bills without signing a long-term contract. Business users may prefer the convenience of fixed-term, while leasing may suit you if you only need a phone and handset for a short time. New ‘capped’ plans also offer convenience and value and does suit some users.
- What are the call rates within each plan?Call rates vary from plan-to-plan. It’s important to assess both the rates and the call charge calculation methods of each carrier when assessing your options. Issues to consider include: How are call charges calculated? On some plans you will be billed per second, on others, per block of time used (usually per 30 or 60 seconds), or, on some ‘capped’ deals (post and pre-paid), ‘call caps’ apply to many services, providing value and certainty; Is there a flag fall (an amount paid for each connection, in addition to call costs)? Are there any special offers cheaper calls off-peak, or to friends on the same network, or for SMS?
- What features do you need in a handset?A basic handset will allow you to make calls and send and receive SMS. You’ll need a more sophisticated one if you want to use the phone abroad, use MMS, voice recording, make video calls, download video or access the internet. Other features to consider are battery capacity. Some handsets run longer between charges than others, ease of use, and your coverage requirements. Consider what you need or you’ll be paying for features you never use. If you already have a handset, are you eligible for other plans or trade-in offers?
- How much flexibility do you need?Consider your need for flexibility and again, your budget. Before you buy a handset or take out a plan, consider if you are likely to want the flexibility to upgrade your handset when a new one becomes available? Might your circumstances change and you want to change to a different plan in say six months? There are many different options for paying for handsets (eg up-front, flexi-rent deals, as part of your service agreement), and different plans (whether pre-paid or post-paid) have different terms and conditions, for example, some include penalties for changing networks, or plans, for example. Read the small print and check you can meet all the minimum conditions of the contract before signing anything.
- What coverage do you require?Where will you be using the phone – only in metropolitan areas, or in the country? Check with the carriers where they have coverage to ensure they can provide the service where you need it before signing up. Your coverage requirements may also affect your handset choice.
- Evaluate the options.Once you’ve worked out what you need and want, do your homework; shop around and compare what is available, and what will best suit your likely usage and budget.
Consider the whole cost of the package. Offers such as ‘$0 upfront’ mean that the cost of the handset is absorbed into the overall contract price, not that the handset is free. Such offers may provide you with a good way of obtaining the handset you want, but they may not be your only, or cheapest, option. Similarly, think about whether you really want any ‘free’ gifts. Check if it’s cheaper for you to choose a different plan and go and buy the ‘freebie’ yourself. Ensure you understand which services are included at special prices. Make sure you read and understand all fine print as once you have signed up, it’s too late to start reading then.
look on the web, talk to friends and get copies of contracts (including for pre-paid phones). Legally, to ensure the consumer is protected, mobile carriers have to write contracts in a particular format, known as a Standard Form of Agreement (or SFOA). The SFOA is a detailed document, but by law, carriers must give you a clear, easy-to-read written summary of the SFOA. This will spell out the terms and conditions to which you’d be bound if you took out a contract. Look at the terms and conditions, compare the rates, check the fine print.
Ask if there’s anything you don’t understand. If you don’t understand anything, ask for more details until you do understand!We cannot emphasis enough that you make sure you understand and are comfortable with everything before signing. Remember: whoever signs a contract is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the terms and conditions of the contract are met.
Don’t sign a contract for someone else unless you’re prepared to pay all their bills! If you sign a contract for a friend (or child), and they don’t pay their bills, it’s you, yes you, who will have to settle the debt. So unless you’re completely happy to cover someone else’s costs, don’t sign a contract for them. One way to sidestep this occurring is to help them choose an appropriate pre-paid option instead. Once the credit loaded on the phone has run out, that’s the limit of your liability.
- Consider if getting your phone fixed is a cheaper option than entering a new contract. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with and iPhone or Smart Phone. Not all things that go wrong are expensive to fix. It would be well worth your while if in Sydney and you need an iPhone Repair done to check out a reputable mobile phone repair company. The team at Airborne Magazine recommend FoneFix if you are in Sydney and they have two locations. You can learn more about them here: http://fonefix.com.au