Mobile phone buying guide

Buying a mobile phone is more than a matter of picking the most feature-rich or slickest-looking device — your usage and lifestyle are going to help you decide which is the right plan and handset for you.

Mobile phone buying guide

Buying a mobile phone is more than a matter of picking the most feature-rich or slickest-looking device — your usage and lifestyle are going to help you decide which is the right plan and handset for you.

As one of the most heavily saturated mobile phone markets in the world, Australia has a lot going for it when it comes to choice in mobiles. Carriers have invested heavily in new 3G networks to promote business use of wireless broadband services, while also encouraging consumers to get on board with services like instant messaging, video-conferencing, interactive games and other services you're likely to pay for.

With new SIM cards available at grocery store checkouts and all sorts of mobiles available for free, you're certainly not struggling for options when choosing your next phone. Before you dive in and sign a contract, however, it's worth doing a bit of research to make sure you end up with a phone — and a mobile service — that fit your requirements and your budget.

Technology freedom

Australia's love affair with GSM (Global System for Mobiles) — which was the country's first digital mobile network technology — continues unabated, despite past incursions from competitors promoting CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).

While the longer range of Telstra's CDMA network had successfully kept most regional areas wired since it was introduced in 1999, its days were numbered. The launch of Telstra's faster Next G network in October 2006 preceded a total CDMA shutdown in 2008. The Next G network makes use of WCDMA technology and offers faster data transmission, though sacrifices range to some extent.

With technology issues out of the way, your biggest choice is whether or not you go for a full 3G service or not. Fortunately, buying into 3G technology doesn't require the compromise in coverage and features that it used to. Today's 3G phones — and there are a lot of them in the market — typically offer fall-back to GSM.

This means you can always get a dial tone even if you've strayed outside of the capital cities and regional centres where 3G signals are strongest; Telstra, Hutchison's 3, Optus and Vodafone offer seamless 3G-GSM roaming across most of the country and the world.

 

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