|1||With over 85,000 employees and 117 million subscribers, Verizon knows a thing or two about coverage. They’re also the second largest mobile network provider in the United States.||5||View|
|2||Sprint Corporation has actually been around since 1899, long before smart phones. They’ve kept up with the times, though, and now offer some of the best rates around.||4.5||View|
|3||T-Mobile provides mobile service for over 44 million satisfied customers. They usually have great deals on all the newest devices, and are actually part of a larger, global corporation called Deutsche Telekom AG, which provides them with plenty of resources and infrastructure.||4||View|
|4||Best Buy Mobile is one of those places that always has deals on the newest models. These days they’re even offering low priced smart watches. Feel like giving one a try?||3.5||View|
|5||Tracfone specializes in no contract cell phone service, which makes it great for fledgling small business owners on tight budgets. Drop or upgrade Tracfone at any time, for adaptive performance in a fast changing world.||3||View|
|6||Boost Mobile is an offshoot of Sprint that focuses on prepaid cell phone service. This provider manages to combine pay-as-you-go with reliable service – something rare in the world of big name service providers.||2.5||View|
|7||Net10 helps small business owners cut costs by cutting theirs. They do this by offering their services and devices exclusively online or in preexisting retail chains, and sharing infrastructure with larger providers.||2||View|
|8||StraightTalk is part of TracFone and is available exclusively through Wal-Mart. They offer pay-as-you-go smartphones for small business owners who want something more than your standard flip phone.||1.5||View|
|9||AT&T is another one those giants. They’ll give you any type of mobile device you can think of, plus Internet, TV, and even a landline if you want one. You’re just going to have to pay a bit more than you would with others.||1||View|
Questions to ask before you buy
Smart phones vs. traditional
When purchasing a mobile phone, the basic dividing line is between smart phones and traditional phones. Today, smart phones are essentially pocket-sized computers that allow you to make calls, send texts, surf the web, take pictures and videos, and do tons of other cool stuff using mobile apps. Traditional phones, on the other hand, are designed for making calls and the occasional text. Which to use really depends on your approach to business. Smart phones are excellent tools, but they’re also excellent distractions, especially if you’re issuing them to employees.
Do you need prepaid or a contract?
Today, it’s no longer the case that you need to sign an annual contract to get a mobile phone. The majority of providers now offer prepaid, “pay-as-go” plans that allow you to pay a monthly fee and cancel whenever you’d like. Contracts still exist, but prepaid works just as well and can be a good way to test out a new service provider.
Data usage – how much will you use?
If you’re in the market for a smartphone, probably the largest portion of your monthly bill will come from the amount of data you use. Data is used whenever the smartphone connects to the service provider’s network to surf the web, as opposed to connecting to personal or public WiFi. If you travel a lot, you’re going to need an appropriately sized data package. If you simply work from home, you can get by with a smaller package, and just use your own network for free.
Additional device and tethering options
Speaking of data, did you know you can actually connect your computer to the Internet through your smart phone? They call this tethering, and it’s a great way to work on your laptop in public places that don’t offer WiFi or where you think the WiFi might be insecure. If you’re going to be buying a smart phone, this is definitely an option to look into – but watch out. Tethering can get pricey.
Any business specific options you need?
Service providers know that small businesses need quality communication capabilities more than most. To meet this need, many providers offer special deals and bundled packages for small business owners. You might just be in the market for a mobile device, but you might also be able to snag a great deal by purchasing a new landline or even Internet service from the same provider.
Other Things to Consider
If you’re going to buy any type of cell phone, you should also look into buying another one while you’re at it. Most providers offer significant discounts on small business or family plans that will lower the initial cost of each device and your monthly bill. Employees, family members, friends – if someone you know needs a new phone you can both save a ton of money by going in on a plan together.
Contract Term and Pricing
Prepaid vs. Contract is an important decision, but once you choose you’re going to have to grapple with the service provider’s terms and conditions. Before you sign, make sure you know exactly how long you’re signing up for. Also, pay attention to the contract’s rates. Service providers will often lure new customer’s in with attractively low pricing, only to jack it up after the first few months. When in doubt, check the fine print.
Coverage and Quality
There’s a lot to say about devices and plans, but when choosing a service provider it is essential to find one that offers quality coverage and service. Most of the top contenders offer coverage to most major regions of the United States, but many are still lagging when it comes to covering less populated, rural regions. If you don’t live by a major city, this is an important aspect to investigate, especially since some service providers market themselves with truth-bending “coverage maps.”
Devices and Features
Does the service provider you’re interested in have the device you want? Can you find that device anywhere else for a better price? Most importantly, will the device come with all of its cool features fully enabled, or will you have to pay more to get the most from it? These are all important questions to ask before you purchase any plan.
As with contractual terms and pricing, most mobile devices will also come with additional fees, some of which are hidden. Roaming, or using another provider’s network for temporary service, has been a big offender for years. In the age of smart phones, there can also be huge fees on data usage that exceeds the amount stipulated in your plan. While you can’t really remove these fees, knowing about them can help you stay within your budget, and at least prevent an unpleasant surprise when the bill comes at the end of the month.
Lastly, all technological purchases you make for your small business should come standard with high quality customer support. With mobile devices, you’re going to be paying a monthly fee to access a service crucial to operations. That means finding a provider with outstanding support is pretty much a requirement. Anyone who doesn’t offer such support isn’t worth your time.