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

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Get a Grip on your Cellphone Costs

Choosing a cellphone can be challenging. There are lots of choices out there, and consumers want to pick the options that best meet their needs, at a fair price. But often, the choices offered can seem like apples and oranges, and comparing them can be tricky.

When choosing a cellphone and cellphone service, you need to know how much you are prepared to spend every month, know what you want and need and know what kind of user you are. Knowing this will help you ask the right questions when shopping for a cellphone or plan. If you have already looked at Cellphone Choices for Canadians: A Checklist, this guide will provide more in-depth information about some of the areas already covered in the Checklist.

What Do You Really Need? — The Basics

  • 1. Begin by asking yourself exactly why you want a cellphone.

  • 2. Decide how much you are able and willing to spend each month.

  • 3. It is also important to decide if you will only use the phone for voice calls, or also for texting and/or broadband applications such as email, Internet access and music downloads. (For information on text and data see the section Telephone Features).

Tip

To quickly estimate how many minutes you may use in a month, think of daily use of a cellphone as about 575 minutes per month, using the cellphone a few times a week as about 350 minutes and very brief occasional calls, just to say where you are, as about 30 - 50 minutes per month. Keep in mind that the way you originally planned to use the cellphone may change over time. This could cause an increase or decrease in the amount of minutes you require. At this point you should reconsider the plan you have subscribed to.

  • 4. Estimate the number of voice minutes, text messages or data usage per month you think you’ll require to meet your needs. Clarify this by thinking about why and how often you might use your phone.

  • 5. Break those minutes down into weekday, weekday evening and overnight, and weekend minutes. Also make sure to include both incoming and outgoing calls.

  • 6. Determine if any of these minutes will be for long distance calls. And if these long distance calls will be made inside or outside of Canada.

Cellphone Minutes

All cellphone service providers break minutes down into weekday, weekday evening and overnight, and weekend minutes — charging different rates for each. That is why it is important to know when you plan to make or receive calls. Calling during the daytime is usually more expensive.

Weekday Minutes are all phone minutes that you use (outgoing and incoming) during weekdays (Monday to Friday) between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.*

Evening & Overnight Minutes are all phone minutes that you use during weekdays (Monday to Friday) between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.*

Weekend Minutes are all phone minutes that you use from Friday evening at 9 p.m. until Monday morning at 7 a.m.*

* Note: These time periods may vary by provider. Do not assume that all evenings or weekends start at the same time. Ask your provider to outline the exact times for you. Some providers’ evening minutes start earlier than 9 p.m. or you may be able to choose an “early evening” option for an additional fee.

Incoming and Outgoing Calls

Did you know that you pay for a call even when someone else calls you? When determining how many minutes you require monthly, consider the amount of minutes you plan to use to call people, as well as the amount of minutes you will need to use for incoming calls.

Long Distance

All providers charge different rates for long distance minutes. Long distance minutes are not included in your regular or evening/weekend minutes.

Always confirm when long distance charges apply with your provider before you begin making any long distance phone calls, as rules for applying long distance charges vary. Remember that when you leave your local coverage area, you may incur long distance charges for calls you both make and receive.

Coverage

Will your cellphone work well in the places where you live, work or travel?

  • Do not assume that your cellphone can receive service in all of the areas you plan to use your phone. Check with your provider to find out their areas of coverage.
  • If you plan to use your cellphone outside of your local coverage area, be sure to ask about roaming costs and capabilities.

Roaming is a service that allows you to use your cellphone outside of your provider's coverage area. It requires an agreement between providers to offer wireless service to each others’ customers within the areas they do not cover. Roaming costs extra both for incoming and outgoing calls, and may require you to use special codes.

In general roaming is expensive and certain locations can be more expensive than others. For example, roaming overseas is more expensive than in North America. Get as much information as you can from your provider in order to avoid any surprises.

If you know you will require roaming services often, you may be able to subscribe to a plan that covers roaming. Ask your provider for details.

Consider your Options

Service Contract or No Service Contract

Once you have defined your basic needs, you need to ask yourself whether or not you are willing to commit to a service contract.

If you think that you are willing to commit to a contract, there are a few things that you may want to know and consider.

  • The minimum service contract period for cellphone service is usually one year, but can be as long as three years.
  • Committing to a service contract means that you are obligated to pay for services from that provider for the amount of time specified on the contract. Breaking a service contract is usually costly.
  • Ask your provider about the total cost of your monthly bill. Along with a monthly fee for a plan with a set amount of minutes, text messages or data usage there are usually also additional fees such as for 911 service. Remember to also account for applicable taxes.
  • When you commit to a service contract, you may receive a phone free of charge, or at a reduced cost.
  • The service provider may include certain features as a bonus or at a reduced cost often for a limited period of time for committing to a service contract. Make sure that you know how long the service contract is for. Ask if you can break the service contract and if so what charges apply and whether you can change your plan during your contract period. If you are not comfortable with the contract terms, do not commit.

Service Contracts with a Monthly Plan

If you choose a monthly plan, you will pay a flat monthly fee for a given amount of minutes each month. The fee may also include the costs for a certain number of text messages and/or data usage. However, the total cost for your service each month may also include a monthly fee to connect you to the network, a 911 service fee as well as taxes. If you exceed the amount of monthly minutes set by the plan additional fees will be charged.

  • You should base your plan choice on the amount of minutes, number of texts or amount of data you think you will need each month.
  • If you use your phone for voice calls a lot during evenings and weekends, options may be available to provide unlimited call minutes during these time periods.
  • Some providers’ evening minutes start early (e.g. 5 p.m.). Others start later (e.g. 9 p.m.), with an option to begin your evening minutes earlier, at an additional cost.

Regular minutes can be used at any time, which includes weekends and evenings. If you don't expect to use the total amount of minutes in your plan, you may not need to buy a more costly weekend or evening option — your regular minutes will do just fine. Or you may also consider choosing a plan with a smaller amount of weekday minutes as well as an evening and weekend minutes option.

  • Let the provider know if there are more than one cellphone users in your house. They may have multiple user plans to suit your needs.

Tip

Once you have chosen a plan and after a few cellphone bills arrive, review the amount of minutes that you are actually using. Does this amount match the monthly plan that you have chosen? If you find that you are going over or not using the amount of minutes in your plan, ask your provider if there is another plan that would better suit your needs. When making any changes to your cellphone or cellphone plan, be sure to ask your provider if this will cause your service contract to start over from that date.

Prepaid Cards and Plans

If you choose not to commit to a long-term service contract, you can instead buy a cellphone outright and use a prepaid plan or phone cards.

Here are a few things you may wish to know about prepaid cards and plans:

  • You will need to supply your own phone. Not all phones are compatible. Providers use different technologies, so always check with the provider you are planning to deal with that the phone is compatible.
  • Credits from a prepaid plan or card may be applied to more than just voice calls. In most cases they can also be used to pay for text messaging, Internet access, and features such as voicemail.
  • Prepaid plans do not usually include the bundled discounts available for voice minutes, texting or data usage often available with a service contract. Monitor your usage and talk to your provider to ensure a prepaid plan is the most suitable option for you.
  • Prepaid credits usually have a set expiry date. When buying credits, know the expiry date which can be anywhere from 30 to 90 days or even longer. Failure to add money to your account before the expiry date means your unused credits will be forfeited. Ask your provider the best way for you to add money to your account, either by using your cellphone, in person at a retailer, or online.
  • There may be a one-time activation fee to start an account for your cellphone. (However, be aware that if your account remains inactive or with a balance of $0 for a certain period of time, you may need to pay a fee to re-activate your account. Ask your provider for details.)
  • The cost per minute is usually higher than in a service contract.
  • You may not receive a monthly bill, however, pay attention to make sure that you do not run out of minutes. You may be required to renew a minimum number of minutes on your phone each month.
  • To carry forward minutes, you must keep a balance in your account.
  • How long you can carry minutes forward for, as well as what will happen with unused minutes varies by provider.

Month-to-Month Plans

Many providers offer month-to-month cellphone service plans. With these plans you pay a monthly rate for a set amount of minutes each month, however, you are not required to commit to a long-term service contract. These plans generally require you to provide or purchase your own phone. Many providers may also offer the month-to-month option to customers once their initial cellphone contract runs out.

Telephone Features

Once you have defined the amount and type of minutes that you require, you need to choose which features you would like to include in your service plan.

Features may include:

  • Call display/Caller identification
  • Voicemail
  • Call waiting
  • Text messaging
  • Internet access (for Web browsing, emails, music or movie downloads)
  • Security

…and many more!

Many service providers bundle features together as a package, charging one amount for a group of features. This may save you money if you need and use all of the features in the package however, if not, you may want to consider other options. You may save money by paying for only those telephone features that you will actually use. However, adding many features can add significantly to the monthly cost of service.

Some users may only require quite basic service or no features at all. In general, the most basic features are caller identification and voicemail.

  • Caller identification shows the name or number of the person calling your cellphone. Most cellphones can store the numbers if you do not answer the call.
  • Basic voicemail will allow callers to leave messages if you don’t answer.

Text Messaging is a service which allows you to compose, send and receive a note using the keypad on your phone. Providers have different methods of charging for text messages. Some charge for messages sent and received, while others only charge for messages sent. All text messages are usually charged according to the number of messages. Ask yourself whether you think you would use this option and how many messages you would send and receive in a month.

Web Browsing is an automatically activated capability which allows you to access and search the Internet from your cellphone. Web browsing is usually charged for according to your usage (i.e. the amount of information downloaded). Many providers offer packages with allotted amounts of minutes or data. It is important to monitor your usage and choose a package that meets your needs and budget. To use this feature, you need to have a cellphone with Web capability.

Tip

After a few cellphone bills arrive, review your usage and features, if the plan you have does not suit your needs, ask your provider to help you find one that does.

Note that most providers offer the ability to pay a flat monthly fee for a set amount of text messages or data. Depending on how often you use these features, you may save money by taking advantage of these plans.

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.

Complaining Effectively

As consumers, we may face difficulties in the marketplace and knowing how to complain effectively is important. Here are some tips, or you may visit the Complaint Courier at www.ConsumerInformation.ca:

  • Give the merchant the first chance to solve the problem.
  • Talk to someone in authority, such as a manager. Be firm and businesslike, but polite. Calmly and accurately describe the problem and what you want the company to do to solve it.
  • Request specifics about how and when something will be done, and get the other person's name in case you have to refer to this conversation later. Write down any details of your complaint and keep it in your file.
  • Make sure to date your notes. Write a letter to the company if your calls do not produce a satisfactory result.
  • You may also wish to contact your provincial or territorial office of consumer affairs to learn about how you may be protected under consumer laws and the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) www.ccts-cprst.ca for help filing a complaint.

On September 1, 2009, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) and its members announced a Code of Conduct for Wireless Service Providers. The Code is available at www.cwta.ca.

Finished with your Old Cellphone or Battery? Recycle!

When you have finished with your old cellphone or battery, do not dispose of either in the garbage. There are various recycling programs which exist in your community to help you dispose of them in a sustainable and responsible manner. Most providers as well as some local charities offer programs. Contact your provider to find out how to participate.

The CWTA also offers a program – www.recyclemycell.ca. The program offers several drop-off locations or pre-paid shipping labels to send in your phone.

Glossary of Terms

Cellphones come with a new kind of language. The following is a glossary of terms to help you understand what to ask for when you are talking with providers. It is important to note that different providers may use their own terminology, which can become confusing. If you are unsure about the meaning of any terms related to your cellphone or service, always ask your provider for a definition or explanation.

Billing/Service Plan Terminology

Access Fee
A fixed amount paid each month to receive wireless service from a provider. Also referred to as a system access fee or network fee. Some providers may use another term to identify the fee or in some cases may incorporate the fee into the basic cost of your service plan.

Activation
The process by which a cellphone account is created, phone number assigned, and cellphone programmed so that a subscriber can make and receive calls.

Activation Fee
A one time fee paid to create a subscriber’s cellphone account.

Bundling
Grouping services together as a package and charging a discounted price. For example, offering various services such as Internet, television cable or cellphone service; or cellphone features such as voicemail, call display or call waiting.

Cancellation Fee
A fee charged by the provider for terminating cellphone service before the end of a contract.

Service Plan
The rate plan selected when choosing cell phone service. It may include a fixed amount of minutes per month, and features such as call forwarding, call display, etc.

Service Contract
The agreement a subscriber makes with a provider to receive cellphone service for a specified amount of time.

Detailed Billing
A feature offered by various providers to include extra details of a subscriber’s usage on their monthly cellphone bill, such as incoming and outgoing calls, telephone numbers called, and any additional charges. Some providers charge more for detailed billing.

Features
Options a subscriber may include in their service plan. These options could be voicemail, call display, call waiting, and many more.

Incoming Call
A call received on a cellphone.

Monthly Plan
A service plan that offers a fixed amount of minutes and features for a specified monthly fee.

Network Fee
A fixed amount paid each month to receive cellphone service from a provider. Also referred to as an access fee or system access fee. Some providers may use another term to identify the fee or in some cases may incorporate the fee into the basic cost of your service plan.

Network Plans
Service plans that offer a special rate for calls made or received from/to subscribers of the same provider. Some network plans may offer free calling among subscribers who are with the same provider.

Outgoing Call
A call made on a cellphone.

Per-minute Billing
When calls are billed by the minute, any call that uses a portion of a minute is rounded up and billed as a whole minute. For example, if a call lasts 2 minutes and 2 seconds, a subscriber will be charged for a 3-minute call.

Per-second Billing
Airtime for each call is calculated and billed to the second and not to the minute.

Prepaid Plans
A system allowing subscribers to pay for cellphone service usage in advance. Instead of paying a fee for a fixed amount of minutes per month, a subscriber purchases cards or vouchers that pay for the calls in advance.

Shared Plans
A single service plan which can be shared by more than one user, with more than one telephone number. Some providers allow users to add additional phones and users to any of their monthly plans (for a fee). Most often, providers only offer the possibility of adding additional phones and users to monthly plans that have been specifically designed to be shared by multiple users.

System Access Fee
A fixed amount paid each month to receive wireless service from a provider. Also referred to as an access fee or network fee. Some providers may use another term to identify the fee or in some cases may incorporate the fee into the basic cost of your service plan.


Time

Air Time
The actual time spent using a cellular network. Billing begins when the SEND key is pressed and finishes when the call is ended or the call is terminated by the other person.

Anytime Minutes
Refers to minutes which can be used anytime of the week, day or night, week day or weekend. Usually a specified number of these minutes are provided with a service plan.

Off-Peak
Periods of time during which providers offer discounted airtime changes. Each provider designates its own off-peak hours.

Rate Per Additional Minute
The fee for additional minutes that exceed a service plan’s fixed number of minutes.

Weekends/Evenings
A designated time when cellular calling rates are lowest or sometimes free. These times are generally between 5 or 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday. These hours differ according to service plans and providers.


Technical

1G
The first generation of cellular technology which uses analog (wave-like) signals.

2G
The second generation of cellular technology which uses digital (on/off) signals. Technologies used by 2G cellular networks are based on either:
  • CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), or
  • GSM (Global System for Mobile communications)
Although frequencies used in North America for both of these technologies include the 850, 900 and 1900 MHz bands, the technologies are incompatible except when bridged by their carriers. "World" phones with both CDMA and GSM capabilities may also be available.

2.5G
An interim step toward 3G. Enhancements to CDMA networks include 1XRTT and EV-DO. For GSM networks, GPRS and EDGE are similar data communication performance upgrades. Note that as mobility carriers upgrade their networks, new cellular handset models with these technology capabilities need to be acquired to take advantage of them.

3G
The third generation of cellphones includes true multimedia as well as increased bandwidths and transfer rates to accommodate the new multimedia functions of the phone. CDMA 3G networks and phones will use technologies such as EV-DO Rev. A & B evolving within the CDMA2000 standard. GSM 3G networks and phones will use UMTS/HSDPA technologies evolving within the W-CDMA standard.

Analog
Is the traditional method of telecommunications. A transmission method employing a continuous (rather than pulse or digital) electrical signal that varies in amplitude or frequency in response to changes in sound impressed on a transducer in the sending device. Analog handsets have been fully phased out in Canada.

Band
Refers to the cellphone's ability to operate within a specific digital frequency range.

Bandwidth
The capacity of a telecommunications line to carry signals. A greater bandwidth indicates the ability to transmit a greater amount of data more quickly.

BluetoothTM
A trademarked, low-power technology designed to replace the wires currently used to connect various electronic devices such as telephones, computers, headsets, microphones, etc.

Broadband
A communications medium that is capable of transmitting a relatively large amount of data, including video or voice information.

Data
Any type of information, including music, picture and text files, as well as messages and other information that can be sent, received or downloaded onto a cellphone.

Decibel (dB)
A unit of measure used to indicate the power or intensity of sound.

Digital
Information represented by non-continuous values or signals (off or on) sent between cellphones is referred to as digital. It is the technology used by most current cellphones.

Download
The transfer of data from one source (the Internet) to another (a computer, cellphone, PDA, etc.).

Dual-Mode
A "dual-mode" phone used to imply that the phone would default to digital network connection, but if available, was capable of communicating with an analog network. This is still useful in remote areas that don't yet have digital PCS technology. Today it refers to evolving cellular handsets that have both 802.11 "b", "g" or "a" radios that work as Wireless VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) sets on WiFi networks and can fall over to CDMA or GSM cellular networks outside of those public or private "Hotspots".

GPRS
Stands for General Packet Radio Service. A data transmission technique that transmits and receives data in packets over GSM networks. This allows providers to charge for the amount of information downloaded by a subscriber, rather than the duration of the connection. It also allows for continuous connection to the network.

GPS
Stands for Global Positioning System. It is a worldwide radio-navigation system which uses orbiting satellites to be able to tell a subscriber their exact longitude and latitude. Some cellphones have GPS capabilities to help a subscriber locate where they are or map where they plan to go.

GSM
Stands for Global System for Mobile communications. It is the most widely used digital technology in the world (originating in Europe) for wireless service.

Kb (Kilobyte)
The unit of measure used by most providers to determine charges for transferring data from the Internet to your cellphone, such as downloading ringtones and music, sending pictures and videos, accessing emails or social networking sites, etc.

Land Line
Traditional wired phone service. Also referred to as wireline.

Multi-band (or Multiple band)
A phone that has multiband (or multiple band) capability can switch between several frequencies. Dual-band, Tri-band and Quad-Band are all multiband devices.

PCS
Stands for Personal Communications Services. A general term used to describe digital mobile wireless service that offers voice communications and/or added capabilities, such as email, text messaging, voicemail, call waiting, etc. PCS provides customers with improved voice quality and security as compared to analog services.

SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) Card
A small removable plastic card that must be inserted in a GSM-based cell phone to allow it to access the global network. A SIM card stores data that identifies the caller to the network service provider, as well as information about personal settings on a phone such as your phone number, account information, phone book, PIM data, etc. The card can be plugged into any GSM compatible phone and the phone is instantly personalized to the user.

Wireless Broadband
Transmission facilities that have bandwidth or capacity greater than that of a voice line. Capable of carrying numerous voice, video and data channels simultaneously.


Features

Apps
An abbreviation for application. An app is a piece of software that runs over the Internet, on an electronic device such as your computer, or cellphone. Many Smartphones can support hundreds of apps.

Call Display
A feature that displays a caller’s name and phone number, provided that the caller is listed in the cellphone’s contact book.

Caller Identification
A feature that displays a caller’s name and phone number, if available, on the screen of the cellphone receiving the call.

Call Forwarding
Allows subscribers to redirect their calls to a different phone number, for example to their home phone number.

Call Hold
Allows a subscriber to put a caller on hold while a second call is answered or made.

Call Restriction
Allows a subscriber to restrict or bar certain or all types of calls to and from their cellphone, i.e. outgoing calls, outgoing international calls, incoming calls.

Call Waiting
A feature that will alert a subscriber of another incoming call and allows them to accept the call without disconnecting the first.

Conference Calling
A feature that allows a subscriber to connect with two other numbers for a three-way conversation. Also called three-way calling.

Data
Any type of information, including music, picture and text files, as well as messages and other information that can be sent, received or downloaded onto a cellphone.

Data Connectivity
A cellphone’s capacity to be connected to the Internet or another device for the purpose of transmitting data.

Download
The transfer of data from one source (the Internet) onto another (a computer, cellphone, PDA, etc.).

Email Messaging
The ability to send and receive email messages on a cellphone via an Internet connection.

Enhanced 911 (E911)
911 service becomes E911 when automatic number identification and information about the location of the cellular tower handling a call is provided to the 911 operator when a subscriber calls 911 from a cellphone.

Extra Capacity Voicemail
Refers to the option of enhancing regular voicemail service, which can include increasing the amount and/or the length of time that messages can be stored on a phone.

Instant Reply
Allows a subscriber to return calls without leaving the voice messaging service.

MMS
Stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. A new version of SMS that is designed to be able to send photos, video and audio clips as well as text.

Mobile Browsing
Also referred to as Web browsing. The action of accessing or searching the Internet from a computer, including a cellphone. Providers usually charge per Kb used or subscribe to unlimited browsing.

PIN
Stands for Personal Identification Number.

Pixels
Picture Element: The smallest unit that makes up an image on a screen. The more pixels there are, the higher the resolution of the image.

Polyphonic Ringtone
A second-generation ringtone that can accurately reproduce complex music using several notes simultaneously.

Predictive Text Input
A feature available on certain cellphones that allows subscribers to write text messages with the help of an integrated dictionary. After only two or three letters are entered, the dictionary will offer the user possible word matches from which to choose. Also called T9.

Ringtone
The sequence of sounds and tones emitted by a cellphone when there is an incoming call. A tone can range from a simple beep to tunes and polyphonic ringtones.

SMS
Stands for Short Message Service. See text messaging for definition.

Text Messaging
A service that allows subscribers to send short written messages (usually about 160 characters) to and from wireless handsets. These messages can be sent from a Web site or from one wireless phone to another and enhancements are being made to support special presentation of text and graphics. Also referred to as Short Message Service (SMS).

Voice Activation
A feature that allows a subscriber to dial a phone by voice instead of physically punching in the numbers.

Voicemail
A service that allows callers to leave a voice message if you do not answer. This service will take messages if the subscriber’s phone is either switched off, if the subscriber is already on the line, or simply does not answer the call.

Voice Recognition
The capability for cellphones, PCs and other communications devices to be activated or controlled by voice commands.

Web Browsing
Also referred to as mobile browsing. The action of accessing or searching the Internet from a computer, including a cellphone. Providers usually charge per Kb used or subscribe to unlimited browsing.


Cellphone / Handset

Cellphone
Also known as a mobile, a cellular phone or a cell. A cellphone is a type of handset.

Cellular
The type of wireless communication that is most familiar to cellphone users. A system of base stations, each of which covers one geographic cell within the total cellular system service area.

Cellular Network
A radio network system which allows providers to supply cellphone service to subscribers.

ESN
Stands for Electronic Serial Number. A serial number that identifies the cellphone to the cellular system for the purpose of making and receiving calls.

Handset
A hand held device used to transmit and receive calls from a wireless system. The most common is a cellphone.

Headset
An accessory consisting of an earpiece and/or a microphone which enables the wearer to carry on a phone conversation in handsfree mode, i.e., without holding the phone in their hand. The headset is connected to the cellphone by a wire, or may be wireless for those with BlueToothTM enabled phones and headsets.

LCD
Stands for Liquid Crystal Display. A flat panel screen used to display numbers and/or characters. Often used on wireless devices.

mAh
Stands for Milliampere-Hours. The unit used to measure the capacity of a wireless phone battery. A larger mAh number potentially indicates longer battery life.

Mobile
Another word for cellphone.

PDA
Stands for personal digital assistant. A handheld device with organization and basic computing functions.

Smartphone
A handheld device that integrates various cellphone and PDA capabilities together. A smartphone may allow users to store information, access email, install programs along with sending and receiving cellular phone calls. Two examples of smartphones are the BlackberryTM and the iPhoneTM.

Standby Time
The length of time a cellphone can be switched on, without being used, until its battery is drained.

Talk Time
The length of time a cellphone can be involved in an active conversation before the batteries need recharging.

Travel Charger
A device which charges the cellphone battery while the battery is connected to the phone, by plugging the charger into the cellphone and into an electrical outlet.

Wireless Device
Any device that can communicate with other devices without being connected by a wire. A cellphone is a wireless device.


Coverage

Coverage
Refers to the region within which a cellphone can reliably receive and make calls and send and receive data.

Local
Refers to calls made within the same local calling area.

Local Calling Area
A geographic area, defined by providers, according to a subscriber’s physical location. The area in which the subscriber is located that day becomes their local calling area, even if their phone is from another calling area. The local calling area changes as the subscriber travels or changes locations. This is not the same as a subscriber’s local coverage area.

Local Coverage Area
A geographic area, defined by providers, as the area that is local to where a subscriber purchased or signed up for cellphone service. This area is sometimes also referred to as home coverage area, local service area, etc., but is not the same as local calling area, defined above. Your local coverage area always remains the same unless you move to another city and notify your provider. The concept is similar to the area you can call with your land line phone from home and not incur long distance charges.

Long Distance
Usually refers to calls made between users of two different local calling areas. Additional fees will be charged, depending on your service plan. Some exceptions apply. Contact a provider for more details.

Roaming
A service offered by most cellphone service providers that allows their subscribers to extend the geographic coverage by using another provider’s network. Fees apply and vary depending on the provider used. Roaming requires an agreement between providers of technologically compatible systems in individual markets to permit customers of either provider to access the other’s systems.