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Consumer Focus: Wondering About Wireless?
Cell Phone

Wondering About Wireless?

If you've been thinking, "Gee, is it just me, or is everyone on a portable phone these days?" The answer is, "Yes." Telecommunications industry officials report that thousands of folks in the US are signing up for wireless service every day. With the law of supply and demand working in consumers' favor, competitive forces in the wireless phone industry are driving the price of portable phones down and new features continue to become available, some phones even allow you to access the Internet! So, as we've seen with many modern conveniences, what many of us considered a luxury is fast becoming a necessity.

If you're considering going wireless, take a little time to think about how you plan to use the phone and how much you want spend. Do a little research to learn about what features you might want when you sign up for service. Service plans and features vary widely. Knowing ahead of time what your basic needs are and what extras you might want will help you find the best deal and help keep you from signing up for features you'll never use. Some folks might simply want the phone for emergencies, others have busy families and want the convenience of being able to keep in touch easily, and some may decide that their wireless phone will be their only phone!

Man on cell phone

Picking a Phone

Some of us remember a time when telephones came only in black with a dial (no pushbuttons) and party lines (kids, ask your parents) were common. Wireless phones were things out of science fiction. Although selecting the type of wireless phone that's best for you may seem complicated, it really isn't. In some cases, you might simply opt to use the phone that is offered with the service plan you choose.

There are basically two types available, analog and digital. Both have plusses and minuses. Analog service is more widely available across the continental US and the initial cost is cheaper. Digital service allows more features and some believe, greater security against "cloning," where unscrupulous persons actually copy the wireless phone account information from over the airwaves. A cloned cellular telephone can then be used to make calls that will be billed to the subscriber of the legitimate cellular telephone.

Woman on cell phone

Selecting a Service

  1. Think about how you'll use the phone. How many calls will you make each week? When will you make calls? Will you use it mostly on the weekends?
  2. When you determine what your calling patterns will be, shop around for carriers that offer pricing plans that best match your needs. There usually are monthly access fees and charges for airtime.
  3. Compare each carrier's plans, rates, and features.
  4. Select the plan that best meets your needs and budget.
woman in car on phone

About Safety

While the benefits of owning a portable phone are significant, several safety issues remain unresolved. Portable phones emit low levels of microwave radiation. Health advocates have expressed concern that this may be a potential health hazard. Research into the health risks is ongoing and has been inconclusive.

In addition, government reports indicate these and other forms of wireless technologies also create distractions that increase a driver's risk on the highways. Federal safety regulators advise that drivers should not talk on the phone while their vehicles are in motion.

Other Resources

This is just a brief overview. For more information on portable phones, check out these resources on the World Wide Web:

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