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How To Video: Before you buy a cell phone
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How To Video: Before you buy a cell phone

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Before you sign the dotted line on a new cell phone, here are some questions to ask before it's too late. What's the warranty on your phone? Is there a grace period for returns? What accessories will you need? Donald Bell runs you though a useful checklist.

-You're at the end of your phone shopping process. Let's assume you found the phone you want, on the carrier you want, for the price you want. But before you make your purchase and possibly sign a two-year contract, here are some things to consider. If you're about to buy a smartphone, really ask yourself if you're gonna use all of those features. If all you need is something for calls and text, going with the feature phone could take a healthy chunk off your monthly payments. Also take a minute to shop around. Some of the best deals in cellphones aren't authored by your carrier store. Call around. Also check the usual places online-- Amazon, Best Buy, Wall-Mart, eBay. Next, think of the accessories you're gonna need, things like a case, a charger for the car, a bluetooth headset. You almost always find that these are less expensive online than in the store, but if you don't factor them in now, you pay a huge markup on them when you need them in a pinch. Be sure to find out how long the grace period is for returning your phone. If you only have a few days to try it up before returning it for something you may like better, that's good info to know upfront. Is there an extended warranty? If you're buying a new phone because your last one fell on the toilet, then a warranty is probably a worthwhile expense. Finally, learn everything you can about your monthly plan. How many calling minutes do you have? How many text messages? Is there an online tool for keeping track of it all? Are there free friends and family minutes that you can use? What are the roaming charges if you use the phone on that vacation to Mexico you're planning? Even if your phone is free, the penalty for not understanding the details of your monthly plan can be hundreds of dollars on unintended fees or paying for features that you're never gonna use. Ask questions. Hold up the line, come back another day if necessary, but don't get pressured to buy a phone and a monthly plan that you're not 100% comfortable with. So there you go. Hopefully, I've given you some good tips to make buying your next phone a little easier. You can head over to phones. CNET.com for all the latest cellphone news and reviews. For cnet.com, I'm Donald Bell.
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