Help Keep Your Cell Phone Working at Its Best

Here are more tips for keeping your cell phone working and protecting your investment:

  • A weak case for cases. Today’s smart-phone bodies often include Kevlar, carbon fiber, or other hardened materials that are quite tough. Aftermarket cases may offer a bit of extra protection, but they’ll often hinder access or slow the responsiveness of the phone’s screen, buttons, and ports that you access frequently.
  • Phone camera zoom lenses really aren’t. Unlike standalone cameras, cell phones don’t have optical zoom lenses. Instead they come with digital zoom, which enlarges pixels and actually reduces image detail as you zoom in. For those close-up shots, we recommend you move in closer. Also consider trying small, affordable add-on lenses that fit over a smart phone’s own tiny lens. They let you get in closer to the action or shoot a wide-angle or fish-eye photo without reducing image quality.

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  • Think twice about insurance and extended warranties. It can easily cost $500 to $600 to replace a smart phone. But a recent survey conducted by Consumer Reports found that only 15 percent of those polled bought a new phone because the old one broke, and only 2 percent bought one because their phone was lost or stolen. And the warranties themselves are no bargain: Plans cost $5 to $9 a month and come with a deductible of between $50 to $150. What’s more, you might be entitled only to a repaired, refurbished phone rather than a new one. Here’s a better idea: Keep your old phone until the new handset’s contract ends.
  • Prepaid carriers are great place for smart phones. The phones offered with prepaid plans used to be just the basics. But some prepaid carriers now offer smart phones. The Samsung Galaxy S III is even available from Metro PCS and the Apple iPhone 5 is available from Cricket—another prepaid company. What’s more, two-thirds of Consumer Reports subscribers who switched to prepaid knocked off $20 or more off their monthly bill. Even though you have to pay full price for the phone, you’ll save in the long run.
  • Haggling works. Most shoppers don’t think to negotiate for a lower cell-phone price, but 17 percent of our cell-phone-buying survey respondents took a shot. Of that group, more than one in four succeeded. The median discount was $54, but a handful knocked $100 or more off the price.
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