Make a Smarter Upgrade
by Bev Bachel
Not long ago, we used our mobile phones soley to make and receive calls. But now our phones are the nerve center of our busy lives, enabling us to text, tweet, take photos, watch movies, listen to music and audiobooks, get directions, surf the Web and use millions of apps for finding everything from cheap airfare to learning deep-breathing exercises.
That’s why Gary Braley, a Twin Cities writer and speaker who prides himself on using plain English to explain mobile technology, never makes a recommendation regarding which phone someone should buy without first understanding the person’s needs.
“Some people truly do need the power of today’s most popular top-of-the-line phones, which include the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy,” Braley says. “But most people don’t.” So if you’re looking to make a smart upgrade to a new phone, follow this advice to get the one that’s best for you.
Identify your needs
Even though we still call them “phones,” today’s smartphones are actually powerful computers that just happen to make phone calls. That’s one reason they can cost upwards of $500. “But if you’re only going to use your phone for calling, texting and surfing, you don’t need today’s most expensive model,” Braley says. He advises making a list of your needs before you even start to shop:
Do you need a phone that fits into your pocket or one that won’t get lost in your purse?
Do you want extended battery life so you can go camping with the kids?
What apps to you plan to use? Where do you plan to use them?
Do you want to play games, create art or watch movies? Do you need unlimited text and data?
Choose a carrier
This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. That’s because your carrier will go a long way in determining your coverage — and thus your satisfaction. Because without the right coverage, you may face dropped or poor quality calls. You may also find yourself unable to make or receive calls, especially if you live, work or play outside major metropolitan areas.
Choose a data plan
According to a Pew Research Center report smartphone use, 37% of smartphone owners reach the maximum amount of data their plan allows at least on occasion — and 15% say this happens “frequently.” As a result, 27% of smartphone owners are occasionally surprised by a monthly bill that is substantially higher than they expected. Don’t let this happen to you. Whether you have an individual or a family plan, take time upfront to understand it. “There are comparison charts online that can help,” Braley says. And remember, plans change all the time so just because your plan used to be a great value, doesn’t mean it still is.
Choose your upgrade
While price is important, it shouldn’t be the only — or most important — factor when choosing your next phone.
“Because prices are easy to compare, people often choose the least expensive model, which can often turn out to be the most expensive in the long run,” Braley says. A second factor to consider is sturdiness. “It used to be that we’d replace our phones every two years, but now even 4-year-old phones can still be powerful enough to meet our needs.”
Freelance writer Bev Bachel lives in Minneapolis and uses her phone to talk, text and email friends and family around the world. She’s the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go For It!
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