Archived—Cellphone Choices for Canadians: A Practical Guide to the Canadian Cellphone Marketplace

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Things to Look for in the Cellphone Handset

When you sign a long-term service contract, you are usually offered a cellphone handset at a reduced price tied to the contract term. In most cases, the greater the discount on the cellphone (including the offer of a free phone), the longer the contract period.

If you choose a month-to-month plan, or prepaid plan, you usually have to pay the full price of the cellphone, but you won’t be tied to a long-term service contract.

When looking for a cellphone, also ask about, or check, the following:

Battery Life How many hours between recharging and how long will the battery itself last? How expensive are replacement batteries, and are they easily available?

Durability Will the phone handle daily wear and tear? Is it resistant to bumps or scratches? Before making your purchase, ask about the warranty on the cellphone. Be sure to find out what is covered and if the provider will loan you another phone should yours need repair.

Keypad Is the keypad easy to see and use? Are the numbers or buttons large enough to access easily? Can you use it with one hand?

Screen Is the screen display quality good? Will you be able to read messages or see pictures in different light conditions?

Size Is it convenient? Will it fit into your bag or purse? Is it easy to hold onto while talking?

Hands Free Capability Many provinces and territories have banned the use of hand-held phones while driving.

Determine the features you need and will use before choosing a cellphone. Some phones may not be equipped for the features you want, such as Web browsing. On the other hand, some cellphones may be equipped for more features than you will use and may be more expensive as a result. Before you buy, ask about the cellphone’s capabilities and the extra charges for using these features on your provider’s network.

Also note that if you have committed to a contract, you are usually eligible to upgrade your phone after a certain time for a reduced cost. However, using this upgrade may restart or change the length of your contract term. Ask your provider for details before taking advantage of the discount. If you change providers, you may not be able to keep the same cellphone as it may not be compatible with the other provider’s network.

Cellphone Technology

For phone users who will be travelling often outside of North America, a phone with GSM (global system for mobile communications) technology might be a good choice as this technology is most commonly used overseas. World phones also function on several frequency bands allowing them to be used in many different countries.

If you are planning to take a trip overseas, check with your provider about whether your phone will work in the country or countries you are visiting and the costs of roaming with your phone overseas as these costs can be high.

In North America, commonly used networks include CDMA, GSM and HSPA. Note that these networks are not necessarily compatible. This means that a phone that works on one network may not work on the other — this could cause difficulties if you choose to switch service providers and want to bring your phone with you.

However, some phones are compatible with more than one network. Ask your provider for details.

Warranties

A warranty is a written guarantee to the purchaser of an article, promising to replace or repair the article, if necessary within a specified period. A manufacturer’s warranty is the guarantee that comes from the manufacturer of the item you have purchased. An extended warranty is one that you may decide to purchase from the store at which you bought the item. Terms of warranties vary, read your warranty carefully to find out what is and isn't covered and for how long. You may also be entitled to some warranty protection under provincial or territorial consumer legislation - contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for more information.