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How to find a cellphone that's right for you

Monday, August 6, 2012

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With most cellphones these days, you can take a picture, text it to your friends, email it to family and post it for the world to see on Facebook or Twitter. And, surprise, you can also make a phone call -- you can even videoconference.

The various options can get overwhelming, especially if you want a phone to just be a, well, phone -- something people can call you on and you can use to call them. You're in luck: all the major cellular carriers offer no-frill cellphones.

"Most of the time nowadays, phones are going to come with a camera," says Andrea Shovan, a cellular representative with JCS/Tel-Link. "It's just going to happen. But there a lot of phones that don't have all the bells and whistles. There's one by LG and one by Samsung that are both basic and easy to operate."

She says when you're shopping for a cellphone, it's important to look around and try different carriers. "Find out what works (for you)," she says. "It's wise to find a local person who can help you rather than ordering with a computer or over the phone."

It's also important to make sure you're comfortable with the phone before purchasing it. Test out the buttons and other navigational tools to make sure it's user-friendly. The AARP suggests looking for phones with larger buttons and other senior-friendly options like a bright display and clear sound.

Of course, the phone is only half of the equation. You also need to find the right phone plan.

You can choose between a prepaid plan or a contract plan. According to an AARP article, "with most prepaid plans you buy a phone (some are even free) and minutes (typically 10 to 20 cents each) at the same time." Most major carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, offer prepaid plans. You can also purchase prepaid phones and plans at chain stores like Walmart, Best Buy and Kmart.

"The problem with prepay is you have to come in or call every time you need to add more minutes," says Shovan. Still, she says it's good for people who want a cellphone for emergencies. "A lot of (people) will come in and just put $100 a year on (the phone)."

If you plan to use your cellphone often or as a primary phone, a contract plan is probably the way to go. The plans have set fees based on minutes, text messages, email and web browsing.

"We do have a senior, 65-plus, plan available through Verizon," says Shovan. "(It's) 200 anytime minutes for $29.99 a month." AT&T offers a similar plan for seniors.

If you have a family member with a cellphone plan, you can also look into adding a line to that plan. It often costs about $10 a month for the extra line. Just remember: All phones on the plan split the minutes, text messages, etc., so one chatterbox can eat into the minutes quickly.

DID YOU KNOW?

According to an AARP survey, the majority of people age 50 and older own some type of mobile technology (89 percent), and nearly 8 out of 10 people report owning a cellphone.


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