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Choosing a mobile phone

Before buying a phone, consider what you are going to use it for. Someone who needs to take lots of photographs with it will need a different phone from someone who only wants to send text messages. With this in mind, we recommend that you spend some time looking at the features available on different phones, so that you can select one that meets your needs. You can use a website like Mobiledia ( to help you research and compare the features of different mobile phones before you choose one to buy. Below are some issues to consider when choosing a phone for individual or organisational use.

Payment plans


Often called 'pay-as-you-go', this allows you to purchase credit to use on a mobile phone network as and when you need it. You can make calls, send SMS and MMS and use the internet until you run out of credit; you buy more credit when you need to.

  • Advantages: No bills and no contracts! It is much easier to control your spending this way, and you have the freedom to swap to another mobile phone provider if you wish. If security is a concern, it's possible to obtain and use a prepaid mobile phone without establishing a link between your identity and the phone.
  • Disadvantages: Calls, texts and internet use are often more expensive than on a contract. You also have to buy the telephone handset yourself.


This usually involves undergoing a credit check, signing paperwork and being billed monthly for your mobile phone usage. 

  • Advantages: Cheaper calls and texts and greater freedom to use your mobile phone network in other countries (called 'roaming'). A monthly allowance of calling minutes, texts and internet time is often included in your plan. In most cases you pay off the cost of the handset over the period of your contract, and do not have to pay for it upfront.
  • Disadvantages: It is difficult to keep track of your spending and you may end up with large bills at the end of the month. You are also locked into a contract, for which you must continue to pay for a fixed period of time (at least twelve months in most cases).

Locked or un-locked phones

If you need to be able to use multiple SIM cards in your phone for security reasons, you will need a phone which is unlocked, which means you are free to use it with any service provider, not just the one you bought it from. Phones which are bought as part of a contract with a mobile service provider are often locked. If you have a locked phone you can get it unlocked. You will need to contact the network provider for the unlock code.

Battery life

Phones with advanced features such as video recorders may have a limited battery life. If you are likely to be away from a power supply for long periods of time, you should investigate the battery life of the phone.


The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) uses four different frequencies for mobile phones, each in a different region of the world. A dual-band phone will work on two of the three frequencies which are used in Europe, Asia and most other places except the United States. A tri-band phone will operate on three of these frequencies, and a quad-band on all four frequencies. If you intend to travel widely with your phone, it's advisable to use a tri-band or quad-band phone. See the section below on Travelling with your mobile.

Data Speeds

If you want to use the internet on your mobile phone you will need to understand data speeds. The current standard for mobile internet is 3G, which is often compared to the average broadband speeds you get for your computer, but in reality is usually a bit slower. It's fine for email and web-browsing and even watching video online. GPRS or 2G are the older speeds and are generally equivalent to dial-up internet speed, which is fine for email and light web-browsing. If you want to use the internet on your phone, you must first find out if your phone is internet capable and at what speed, and then find out if your mobile network offers internet access (usually at an extra price), and at what speed.

Storage capacity

Taking pictures using your mobile phone can use up your phone's memory so if this is a priority for you, it's advisable to consider either buying a mobile phone with a large memory or one that can take an external memory card (which is also helpful when it comes to transferring files to your computer).