It is a Practical Guide to the Canadian Cellphone Marketplace because 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.