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Sat Mar 27, 2021, 08:39 AM

First time buying a smartphone. Could really use some help/advice.

For some weird reason I'm really anxious about this. I've waited too long, and now it's hard to even function in society without at least the cell phone part of a smart phone, and emergencies and disasters happen on a daily basis, and everyone should have a camera in case some gross injustice needs to be caught on video.

But then I just remind myself that if Louie Gohmert can use a smartphone, I am sure I can figure this out. I'm almost ashamed to take up any DUers valuable time on something I should have learned 15 years ago and apologize in advance. Many of the helpful articles online assume that the reader has a certain amount of knowledge that I really don't have, so I'm pleading for some real basics here:

I think I want to get an Android (especially interested in the Google Pixel 4a). My idea as of now is to order the new, unlocked phone directly from a seller.

1. Once I actually receive the phone, will it walk me through the process of getting it activated and connected to a carrier and purchasing a plan, or do I have to go find a particular store (we have several Verizon stores in my town) and sit down mask to mask with somebody and go extensively through different plans and options--something I would ordinarily do but am trying to avoid until I'm fully vaccinated?

2, Or do I have to have a plan with a carrier set up in advance before getting a phone? (I currently only have a landline phone).

3. This SIM card seems really important and is referred to in many of these articles. Since this will be my first phone, I don't have anything to transfer to a new phone. But does a SIM card come with every new phone? Or is that something I received from the carrier (Verizon, ATT&T, T-Mobile, etc...) and insert into a new phone?

4. Is there anything obvious that I'm missing or forgetting, or can you tell from the three questions above that I really have barely a clue what I'm doing?

Am I approaching this wrong? Should I just brave the local smartphone store and let them set me up?

Huge thanks and gratitude in advance for any advice or help!



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Reply First time buying a smartphone. Could really use some help/advice. (Original post)
Mike 03 Mar 27 OP
brewens Mar 27 #1
mahatmakanejeeves Mar 27 #2
OneBlueDotS-Carolina Mar 27 #3
JT45242 Mar 27 #4
TheFarseer Mar 27 #5
HUAJIAO Mar 27 #9
appalachiablue Mar 27 #10
Shermann Mar 27 #12
TheFarseer Mar 27 #23
Shermann Mar 27 #24
snowybirdie Mar 27 #6
intrepidity Mar 27 #7
vlyons Mar 27 #8
3Hotdogs Mar 27 #11
LizBeth Mar 27 #19
3Hotdogs Mar 27 #20
gibraltar72 Mar 27 #13
gibraltar72 Mar 27 #14
Phoenix61 Mar 27 #15
luckone Mar 27 #16
ItsjustMe Mar 27 #17
keithbvadu2 Mar 27 #18
krispos42 Mar 27 #21
CloudWatcher Mar 27 #22
Hotler Mar 28 #25

Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 08:45 AM

1. I just got the cheapest one Verizon offers and still don't know much about it. I'm retired and have

access to my laptop almost all the time so there's not much hurry to master a lot of the functions. I'm thinking I'll have it down by the time my laptop dies, then maybe I'll get a better smartphone and forget about owning a PC.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 08:49 AM

2. I got my first one just over a year ago. I have been on Tracfone for years.

I do not use a phone much. I just wanted to have a smartphone, as they are getting to be essential now. My existing phone worked just fine as a phone, but it was getting limited. It could receive text messages, but it had no keyboard. You had to press buttond on the keypad repeatedly to send a text message.

The writing was on the wall.

If you are a minimal user, I urge you to consider the pay-as-you-go phone plans, such as Tracfone.

I got an Apple 6S, as Tracfone had a good price on it at the time. Your mileage may vary. When the phone was shipped, the SIM was separate. I could have put anyone's SIM in the phone, and it would have been primed for that provider's service. The SIM is the only thing that makes my phone a Tracfone phone. The only disadvantage is that Tracfone won't let me use my phone as a local hotspot, so I can't connect to other computers with it. I probably got the words wrong, but someone will correct me.

The nominal fee for 365 days of service for a smartphone with Tracfone is $125, but there's a blog with Tracfone promo codes, where I found a promo coded that knocked $50 off that. Right now, the magic promo code that does that is 22448. So if you do go the Tracfone route, figure out what level of service is best for you and check the promo codes before you hand over your credit card number. It will be worth your effort.

The screen of the 6S is pretty small. You wouldn't want to surf the internet all day long on one. A 6S Plus, with a bigger screen, would have been better for that. It also would have cost $50 more. I don't use my phone for non-stop 'net surfing, though, so it's not an issue. Like brewens, I use a laptop for almost all my online work. I use my phone as a phone.

Tracfone has both iOS and Android phones. Tracfone will need to know your general location before it can show you what's available in your area.

Before the days of smartphones, Tracfone phones were locked to Tracfone service. With smartphones, that is no longer true. You can also buy an unlocked phone from, say, Walmart and stick a Tracfone SIMS in it. When I got my phone, Tracfone had a competitive price, so I did not go that route.

Links:

Tracfone Smartphone Reviews

https://shop.tracfone.com/shop/en/tracfonestore/phones

Tracfone Promo Codes - March 2021

67472 - $15 off - $125 Smartphone Only Card - February 2021
33158 - $15 off - $125 Smartphone Only Card - January 2021
22448 - $50 off - $125 Smartphone Only Card - working March 2021
67472 - $15 off - $125 Smartphone Only Card - working March 2021
34932 - $50 off - $125 Smartphone Only Card - expired Dec 2020

I'm almost ashamed to take up any DUers valuable time on something I should have learned 15 years ago and apologize in advance.

You needn't be. I asked my coworkers, all of whom are years younger than I am, for guidance. Without their help, I would not have known what to have done. I have great coworkers.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 08:56 AM

3. My wife has a Pixel 4A...

She has the fancy phone in the household. She purchased it so she could use google Fi cellphone service. No cons, takes excellent pics, hasn't had a problem with the phone, set it with ease with the Google Fi folks on the phone. Google Fi works on your home WiFi & 1000's of google Fi ...check their website, thing is, her bill has never been more than $25. a month. I use a inexpensive Moto phone on Tracfone, costs me $9.00 a month, but I rarely use it. We use my wife's Pixel for facetime, zoom etc, sending pics, etc. Again the best feature of the Pixel, is the camera, it's amazing for the price point. As for the sim card, Best buy sold her one for $10.00, which Google Fi then credited to her account. Google will send you the sim card for no charge, if your the patient type.

Edited to add, there is no need for a sim card if you use Google Fi...

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 08:56 AM

4. For a first phone...

Select the cheapest carrier that has good coverage everywhere you are likely to use your phone.

Look at coverage maps online. We have a regional carrier that would be cheaper than one of the big guys but has poor coverage at the in-laws, so we had to go elsewhere.

As a new customer, they will likely have an offer for a free phone with contract, usually two years. Getting your first phone through the carrier is pretty easy. (Later you may want to buy unlocked phones from Costco or Amazon) .

The setup process follows a phone driven step by step for Android type phones. My mom was able to do it herself when he upgraded her from a slider to smart phone.

Never used an iPhone because they are a lot more expensive than the competition.but, the process is still phone driven if you get it from a carrier.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:00 AM

5. In my experience

It is virtually impossible to get any sort of help from Verizon on anything. Good luck!

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Response to TheFarseer (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:09 AM

9. Not only virtually impossible. but actually impossible !!

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Response to TheFarseer (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:39 AM

10. My Verizon experience as well, sorry to say

I had to replace my cell phone last Sept. during the Covid crisis with store closures, dicey phone support and it was challenging. Since I wasn't ready for a Dumb Phone I searched online and ordered a durable Verizon flip phone, one of few still available- Ducera Kyocera model.

Once received, Verizon helped me set it up by phone, transferring my old cell no. and using the SIM card number noted on the shipping box.

The last cell phones I bought were 10 years ago, from a Verizon store- flip phones with refill cards. The phones worked great until Verizon kept removing features and functions to force you into buying a new, more expensive IPhone.

On my old phones it was easy to see text msgs., check email and do basic internet searches. On the new phone the print and screens are much smaller, for Google search it's tiny and unreadable and the enlarge feature isn't a help. And you have to create passwords, pin nos. and accounts for everything now.

Anyway, good luck with your new phone project- maybe things are settled down some by now.

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Response to TheFarseer (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:53 AM

12. They were fine in my experience

I purchased a new phone two years ago at a Verizon retail location. They set it up for me and handed me a partially charged phone fully activated and ready to use.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #12)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 02:36 PM

23. I didn't have a problem with the actual phone

I traded in my old phone to Verizon for the new phone and the new phone was supposed to be free. But they couldn't take my phone at the store, I had to mail it in. After trying to print the shipping label off the website for 2 hours, someone in a chat told me I had to get the label at the store. After going to the store twice, they finally gave me a shipping label and I sent the phone in. That was NOT the end of it. They still billed me for the new device. After an hour on the phone talking to robots, I finally got a person who told me I did it all wrong and someone will have to call me next week to help me get my credit. At least they acknowledge that they received the old device. Wish me luck!

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Response to TheFarseer (Reply #23)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 04:49 PM

24. I didn't turn in my old phone

I think they were going to give me $20 or something? I keep a backup phone around now. There are a variety of uses for them.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:03 AM

6. Check out Googlephone

Don't use my phone much, and rates are really inexpensive. You can just pay for your phone monthly too, so its not a big money outlay initially. Its Android and works fine. Plus it runs on my internet service in my home, and only uses the more pricy satellite service when I'm away from home. This was especially convenient this last year of isolation. Hubby uses his phone constantly for information and entertainment. We like it. Easy to set up, as well. Just go on line for information. Good luck!

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:04 AM

7. My advice would be to start with a cheap prepaid phone

You can get one for like $40.

This will let you get familiar with everything for awhile, to determine your use and preferences, so you can make a better informed decision on a more expensive option later on.

I was in your position about 5 years ago, and I still haven't been able to decide what to get as my "permanent" (lol, as if that's even a thing these days with phones) setup; so I'm still using the $40 phone, reupping the $35/month prepaid plan (Verizon).

Although, a couple years ago I *did* get a second cheap phone because I needed one that could use my home wifi signal for making phone calls (I live in a dead zone--no cell service.) The upside was that my old phone is now just an internet browsing device.

(That assumes you have wifi at your home?)

Your questions aren't dumb at all.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:07 AM

8. First decide which cell service you'll use

There can be a big difference in monthly fees of cell service. Each service will have different deals on phones.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 09:49 AM

11. iPhone over Android for beginners. iP is more user friendly.

Go one the websites for the three major carriers. Verify which has the best coverage in your area. Most likely it is the same for all.

If you are over 55, choose T Mobile. They have a special plan for seniors: unlimited data. This is because they don't expect you to be playing games on the damn thing.

If you are getting the cheapest phone, do not waste your money on the insurance.

buy the glass protector and a good case. Mine is UAG.

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Response to 3Hotdogs (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 12:39 PM

19. Where do you see a coverage map? Mine is awful in the location I moved. ATT and I have to go outside

or a particular spot. I have called both ATT and iphone to see who is the issue. I have never had an issue with ATT coverage until this move. Thanks in advance.

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Response to LizBeth (Reply #19)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 01:08 PM

20. Company websites have maps that show coverage.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)


Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 10:01 AM

14. Recently went through same thing.

Had a cell phone for biz. years ago. I should say bag phone. I bought Motorola Moto G mostly for battery life. It is way smarter than I but I learn something useful every day. Also went with Consumer Cellular after making comparisons. I don't envision using lots of data time.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 10:02 AM

15. As others have mentioned, the first step is

checking the coverage area. Doesnít matter how great of a phone you have of you canít get a signal. Verizon had the best coverage where I live so thatís who I use. As far as the iPhone vs Droid argument. Every Droid operates a little differently so getting help may be difficult. If youíre in a group of people someone has an iPhone and can help you do whatever it is youíre trying to do.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 10:47 AM

16. Used unlocked IPhone SIM card from T-Mobile glass front protection and case Best Buy for me

Went to T-Mobile after I bought the phone I think they mailed me the sim I canít remember it was many years ago but from t mobile
I like my phone + I like my service /Chicago
The protection installed on the glass and the case keep me more worry free

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 10:57 AM

17. Check out these websites

Last edited Sat Mar 27, 2021, 11:48 AM - Edit history (1)

For deals on smartphones and phone service.

https://slickdeals.net/deals/smartphone/

https://www.reddit.com/r/smartphone/

https://www.reddit.com/r/Smartphones/

The best advice I can give you is to stay away from the iPhone, you do not want to deal with that ecosystem for your first phone.

On Edit

Also, if you are low income, you could get a free phone and service from a lifeline program.

https://www.lifelinesupport.org

https://www.assurancewireless.com

https://www.t-mobile.com/offers/lifeline-program

https://www.verizon.com/solutions-and-services/lifeline/

https://californialifeline.com/en

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 11:03 AM

18. I asked the salesfolk what a $1,000 phone would do that a $100 phone would not do. Not much

I asked the salesfolk what a $1,000 phone would do that a $100 phone would not do. Not much. So unless you need some fancy feature, go downscale. The salesman recommended LG or Samsung for reliability.

The feature I like best is talking your text. But you really have to proofread it because it will interpret things you did not really mean. If I have a long email, I can talk it and send it to my email for editing and forwarding.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 01:31 PM

21. First off, don't be too nervous

It doesn't bite.

When you buy a phone from a major carrier, it comes with the carrier's SIM card in the box. Actually, the salesperson from the store can set it up for you. Depending on the phone, there's a little pop-out tray the SIM card goes in, or the cover of the phone comes off and the SIM card slot is under the battery, or something like that.

But figure out your coverage area. I have T-Mobile, which has pretty good coverage and customer service and I've been with them since... 2006? I currently have the unlimited plan, which is $40 a month.

I also have an Android phone, so that's where my bias is. I used an iPhone last summer for the Census and wasn't really impressed. Not that I'm an Android fanboy, but like Microsoft, it works well enough and I'm comfortable with it.

So with an Android phone, the first thing to need to do is get a Google account. You can get an Gmail account, or I think you can associate a non-Google email address with it as well now.

Then you set up the email on your phone to your account(s). Now your email app can send and receive emails from one or more accounts. I have two of them, a Gmail account and a Yahoo account, but that's just me. You can put as many on there as you need to.

Then start putting in your contacts. Name, phone numbers, emails, etc. There's a built-in app for that. Try calling and texting people.

You'll want to setup your voicemail, too. That's sort of a one-time thing, just record your outgoing message.

Then start customizing and playing with your phone. Change your ringtone and your message alert tone. Explore font options, colors, and sizes. Basically, just poke around and get used to how it works. Try out the camera, take some pictures and movies. Figure out how to turn the flash on, how to zoom in, that kind of stuff.

Try going on the internet. Get used to DU on a mobile browser, for example. You might want to install a different browser (for example, Firefox has a mobile version) and you should install some kind of anti-virus software. AVG is popular, and the basic edition is free.

Google includes a few apps on the phone that are useful, such as Google Maps (enormously useful, it includes GPS navigation, traffic levels, satellite views, and businesses and restraunts). You can try them out a little.

After you get used to the phone, there are ways you can use the phone to increase your happiness. For example, you can get wireless earbuds (Bluetooth earbuds) and use your phone as a music player, or for listening to podcasts.

You can get games you might like from the Google Play store. Chess, Scrabble, Words with Friends, Candy Crush, Angry Birds...

Also, many places have their own app. For example, your bank probably has one. You'll be able to quickly check account balances, see transactions, and transfer money with their app. The big banks also let you deposit checks simply by taking a picture of the front and back of the check!

Social media sites have their own apps as well... Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

What's going to happen is that gradually you'll see how the smartphone can help you out. Let's say you like to play an instrument. Well, you can install a tuning app, and a metronome app. Now you're always in tune and on time.

Let's say you have a burning desire to learn Morse code. Well, there's a bunch of apps available for that. Having trouble remembering to take your medications? There's probably an app for that. Or you can set a bunch of alarms on your phone.

Actually, that's how I keep track of break time at work, I have alarms set so I don't miss a break.

There are a variety of ways to stream music, if data usage isn't an issue (you don't use your data plan if your phone is on WiFi). Pandora is a big one, and many local radio stations have a free app that will stream their broadcast. For example, as I time this I'm streaming 99.1 WPLR. Or if you like podcasts, Stitcher has alot of them.

The major and minor networks also have streaming apps. Got a Netflix account? Disney +? Paramount+? Peacock? Hulu? Amazon Prime? Well, now you can watch on your phone.

Basically, as you get used to it, ask yourself "hmmm, is there an app for that?" and then poke around a little.


Oh, and if you have a reasonably modern car, it probably links up to your phone now, so you can play music and phonecalls through your car's speakers.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Mar 27, 2021, 01:53 PM

22. My 2-cents

Given that you've waited this long, I'm going to guess you're not really into computers and tech stuff and are not going to be gung-ho to read the docs and play and explore all the options.

So my main advice? Pick a friend that can be your tech support & tutor and is willing to teach you what you need to get started. If they like android, get an android. If they like iPhones, get an iPhone. If you don't have a friend that fits this description, make one

Expensive lessons to know early --

- Don't take it internationally without research. It might work fine, but you can get a very large bill if you're not careful.

- Backups. Having lots of pictures on your phone is great, until you lose your phone. Anything important should be saved in at least two places! Even a backup to the "cloud" counts as one copy. Cloud companies go out of business, and there's always the chance you'll accidentally delete something that can't be restored.

- Security. Smart phones are targets for hackers and cyber-thieves. Be paranoid and untrusting. Assume most email and texts are forged and are trying to get your money.

Good luck

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sun Mar 28, 2021, 11:25 AM

25. I'm in the same boat. Bought my first phone an Andriod, it's stilll in the box.

I'm looking at Mint Mobile for service. So far most of the plans through major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc are going to cost me more than my land line. I'm not liking that. I may just keep the land line and say fuck it.

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