Roaming charges … coverage areas … voice messaging … Internet connections. Gone are the days when choosing a cell phone was a matter of asking a few questions and trotting away with a new gadget in hand. With all the fancy and expensive options available these days, a buyer needs to know and investigate the choices that make sense for his or her situation. Here’s the low-down on all the high-tech considerations.

Choosing a cell phone isn’t the easy job it once was. The number of carriers has multiplied, and the number of options has mushroomed. Rate plans and services seem to change as often as the wind.

“Wireless is essentially a commodity, much like air travel and long-distance,” explains Allan Keiter, president of (Atlanta, Ga.) “That in mind, consumers of the service should always seek out the best price for their unique needs. Carriers have tried to retain some brand differentiation, but one only needs to look at the consolidation in carriers and convergence in pricing across carriers to know that consumers don’t really see the distinction.”

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA of Washington, D.C.), estimated the total number of wireless subscribers in 2001 at more than 118 million. That compares with an estimated 203,600 subscribers in 1985.

The CTIA is an international industry group representing all elements of wireless communication, their manufacturers and their service providers.

Get what you need
First, people need to evaluate the type of cell phone and/or wireless services they need. Wireless services refers to mobile voice and data services. Many people do not utilize any of these options on their cell phone, but for many, the voice messaging, voice mail, and wireless Internet connections via their cell are critical to keeping in touch with business associates and clients.

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