Which cell phone carrier to choose
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Choosing the right cell phone carrier

Choosing the right cell phone carrier can be just as important as deciding on the phone itself. To help you determine which cell phone company is right for you, consider the following factors.

Can you hear them now?

Not all carriers cover the same areas. More than anything, it's important that you're able to receive calls, text messages and access data services in your local area. If you're unsure of whether a carrier covers the places where you live, work and travel frequently, ask to see the carrier's coverage map. Better yet, take a poll among friends and family to see which carrier they use and how they like (or don't like) the service that carrier provides.

Phone factor

Not all wireless carriers offer the same phones. If you have your heart set on a specific phone, it can be really frustrating to find out the provider you want doesn't offer it. If you can't have the phone you've been dreaming about, chances are there's another model that offers similar features. With a bit of research, you're certain to find a smartphone that can do everything you want from a wireless provider that has you covered everywhere you go.

The price is right … Or is it?

Many wireless carriers offer discounted monthly rates when you sign on for data, text and voice services as a bundle. If you use a landline at home, you may not need as many minutes as you think. Many providers also offer family plans to consider as well. Go through your old bills to see how much time, texts and data you really use, then comparison shop to see which network offers the most bang for your buck.

The fine print

Most carriers will sell you a smartphone handset at a great price to lock you into a fixed-term contract. While this deal can be an affordable way to get your hands on the latest smartphone technology, it isn't for everyone. When you pay full price for your handset, some carriers may allow you to pay for their services on a month-to-month basis. This way, if you need to cancel your plan for any reason, you can do so hassle-free. Be sure to ask about early-cancellation fees, and evaluate your long-term cell phone needs, as well as your budget.

You're ready to shop — now brush up on the latest smartphone lingo to sound like a pro.

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