How to choose the plan you need

In short, the first step in selecting a cell phone plan is making sure that the provider has a clear, strong signal in the places you will use the most.

Once you’ve picked the best network for you, your next task is to choose a plan that will meet your needs without breaking the bank. If you only use your phone for emergencies or routine talking and texting then you probably don’t need a data plan with your account, and you might be better off selecting a pay-as-you-go wireless plan from our chart in this section. If you use your cell phone to check email, browse the internet or play games, you will need to buy data, and choosing the best plan can be tricky.

The first thing you’ll need to do is find out how much data you use now. Your monthly statement with your current cell phone provider will tell you how much data you use each month, which can help you save some money. Your data plan should be close to your actual usage as the wrong data plan can cost you hundreds of dollars each year in either unused services or data overages. Having a lot of unused data at the end of the month means you are paying for more than you use and perhaps downgrading your plan might better match your needs. On the other hand, using more data than your plan allows means that you will pay overage charges that are often very costly when compared to upgrading your plan.

If you are new to smartphones and aren’t sure which data plan to choose, there are a few terms to know. Data plans are discussed in terms of megabytes (MB) and the larger gigabyte (GB), which is 1,000 MB. Checking email, visiting webpages, or downloading new applications are all activities that use data. Streaming an hour of music can use 60 MB of data while watching an hour of standard definition video can use over 300MB. Sending and receiving 50 emails without attachments uses approximately 1MB. There are many calculators available online to help you estimate your usage prior to picking your data plan including a simple to use calculator at This website allows you to enter your specific usage details on a monthly or weekly basis and estimates your data plan needs.

Also most smart phones allow you to use wifi, which can help save on data by using your home internet connection or publicly available connections found in most town libraries, fast food restaurants and even grocery stores. To use these connections turn on the Wi-Fi option in your phone settings menu. The phone will automatically scan for available connections and you can choose which one to join.