Once the decision is made to move up to a smartphone however, purchasing a web enabled cell phone is only the first step in the process of getting started. Cell phones operate in conjunction with a voice plan from a cellular provider; when using such a device for internet related functions, the user must have a data plan to make the appropriate connection.
When considering a data plan for a cell phone there are a number of details to consider:
What functions will be used?
Users need to carefully consider what functions they will be needing. Some data plans allow e-mail functions only, providing the benefit of a lower monthly cost. Other plans allow users to send and receive e-mail via their cell phone, access the internet, download games, music, video, sync with their PC to access various software applications, and perform a variety of other functions.
Users also want to be sure they know what web access they will be allowed via their data plan. Some plans allow access to selected sites only while others provide unlimited access. Some data plans allow internet access via cell phone but not on a laptop when tethered to a cell phone acting as a modem. The data plan will need to match up with how the individual wishes to use the service.
Is the coverage sufficient?
Just as with a voice plan, users should check to assure that the coverage through the data plan will be sufficient for their location and in other locations where they will commonly need to access the service through their cell phone. In some instances, the quality or speed of the connection can vary from location to location.
What is the cost of the data service plan?
Cell phone owners are charged a monthly fee for their data plan. Users pay for data plans through either the amount of data used or the time spent on the service. Data use fees may be based on a predetermined amount of data transmitted and received over the course of a month or may be "unlimited".
Plans which charge a set fee for a prescribed amount of data transfer may be economical if use of the service is very limited and consists primarily of e-mails and text documents. However, in many instances, unlimited plans that set no limit on the number of megabytes used in a month are often a safer option. As an example, a plan with limited data transfer may allow 5MB per month but receiving a single MP3 music file could consume 3-4MB alone. Just as with voice plans, it is expensive to exceed the data plan limits; average $.06 per kilobyte.
As mentioned above, rather than charging for the amount of data transfer, some cellular providers draw from voice plan minutes to cover time spent on the web. Individual users would need to carefully assess whether or not the consumption of additional voice time would be the best option for them.
As cell phones have matured into the smartphones of today, millions of busy, time limited people are finding them increasingly indispensable. However, new users will need to learn the details of the various data plans to assure that their new web enabled cell phone can meet their expectations.