Today, the choices of cellphones available are endless. They come in various colours and sizes. They come with colour imaging. Some even play music. Whatever your pocket book or your fancy desires, there is a cellphone for you.

The following tips should help safely guide you through your cellphone experience.

Providers

Donât select the first carrier you happened to walk into. Different carriers offer different packages. Find out what carriers are about by reading their brochures and checking out their web sites. Find out from the salesperson what specials they are offering.

Choosing the right cellphone

First, realize that all phones are not compatible with all carriers. If you plan on changing your carrier sometime in the future and want to keep your phone, you may want to choose a phone that is more flexible.

Decide how much money you are willing to spend. Keep in mind that some phones have many more features than others. If you are cost conscious, donât buy an expensive phone with a lot of features if youâre not going to use them. You may find that a less expensive phone with basic features suits your needs perfectly.

The numbers/letters on the face of some phones are very small. Check the size of numbers/letters to make sure you can see them clearly.

Ask about duration of battery time. Features like colour imaging use up more of your battery time.

Ask about the warranty agreement. Find out the length of time and conditions of the warranty.

Ask whether you can use your phone abroad. This is usually referred to as roaming. Today, many phones automatically roam once you are abroad, however, different carriers have different agreements with different countries. Check to see if your network has an agreement with the country you will be visiting. If it does not you may not be able to use your phone in that country.

Upon purchasing the phone, make sure you read and sign the contract. Be careful when adding someone elseâs name to the contract if you are responsible for paying the bill.

If cost is a consideration, you may want to consider purchasing a pre-paid calling card. Basically, this means you pay up front and will not receive a bill. If purchasing a calling card, be aware of the date the card expires. Understand that dialing 411 and voicemail uses up your airtime. Also, be aware that long distance calls use additional minutes.

Using your Phone

Get to know your phone by reading your owners manual. Donât be afraid to experiment. If you donât play with your phone you may not be able to enjoy the many useful features it provides.

Make sure you establish a security password for your phone. This ensures that no one else has access to your voicemail messages.

If you find that your phone is not functioning properly, it may be something you are doing wrong. Take it back to the place of purchase immediately and share the problem with the salesperson. Make sure you keep your receipt and the original container in case the phone has to be returned.

If your phone is lost or stolen, make sure you report it to your provider immediately. They will put a block on it right away so no one else can use it.

Finally, roaming charges can be very expensive. Since many phones automatically roam, make sure you understand your roaming charges before using it abroad.

Enjoy your cellphone experience!

Marisa Sharpe is an inspector at the Department of Consumer Affairs. For consumer information, visit www.ca.gov.bm.