Likely the biggest revolution in technology in the last decade has been the emergence of the cell phone. Phones now come in all different shapes and sizes, so you can get a slim, pocketable device or a full-featured one. There are also Smartphones, which combine cell phone and PDA functionality, allowing you to access documents like Word or Excel files, go online, check email, and do a host of other things.
The main expense in choosing a cell phone is the service plan, which you'll probably purchase from one of the major carriers in the United States: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile. You'll want to learn about their different plans and costs before you set your heart on a specific phone.
If you don't want to commit to a multi-year contract, which you'll need to do with most carriers, you can opt for a prepaid phone, which comes with a certain number of prepaid minutes and no monthly fees or contractual obligations. Tracfones are one of the most popular options.
Phones started out as simple models with a screen and a keypad, but there are now plenty of options out there. The traditional "candy bar" models are still made, although recently manufacturers have tended to reduce the number of buttons in favor of a large touchscreen, where the buttons appear on the display and change depending on the context. There are also flip phones, which open up to reveal a keypad, and slider phones, where an external screen will slide up. Many devices nowadays can flip or slide open two different ways, horizontally and vertically, to allow access to a full QWERTY keyboard, which is great for text messaging or sending emails.
Whichever style you choose, you'll want to keep some of these basic points in mind when shopping. Be sure, when you have the chance, to compare ''real'' phones side-by-side in store. There is a big difference between a floor model and a functioning model. Even better, at some locations you can make a local call to check the sound quality. Don't forget to purchase a few extras like a case/holder, screen protector, and car charger. Add these accessories into your budget.
* '''Size, Weight, and Handling'''
** Big or small, the test of a perfect phone is how it fits in your hand and how it feels.
*** Heavy or light? Bulky or so slim you think you'll break it?
*** Can you open it and manipulate the keys with one hand?
** Does the phone feel like it's well constructed? Trendy, slim phones look hot, but if a phone isn't built to last, chances are it'll hit the trash can before this season's jeans go out of style. That's not a good thing when you've just signed a two-year contract.
** Check the screen size. Is it big and easy to read? Compare the screens of two models and check which has a clearer picture. You might be surprised at what you see. When in doubt, choose a backlit screen for better viewing in low-light situations.
** How long does it take to charge?
** How much talk time do you get and how much is just standby time?
** Does the phone have an optional rapid battery charge?
** Remember that a smartphone's battery will not last as long if you're running lots of apps, watching videos, or listening to music all day.
Smartphones are the most popular option for most new phones. They offer a level of multi-tasking that was previously unattainable. Key features on any smartphone will include MP3 capabilities, emailing and internet browsing options, applications, full QWERTY keyboards, and cameras (most phones will also have a GPS system). Make sure you keep these pricey devices well protected with cases and covers. Don't forget to add in the cost of monthly data plans so that you can use the Internet.