BUYING A MOBILE PHONE, INTERNET & DATA
Choose a Phone Plan
In Canada, phone plans are either prepaid (sometimes called “pay-as-you-go”) or contract-based and paid monthly (sometimes referred to as “postpaid,” but it means the same thing).
Using this option means that you have already purchased a working mobile phone to link a SIM card to. If this is the case, then you are in luck for having a more affordable phone plan. Be sure that you are buying the appropriate phone for your needs and your expected phone plan. Try WillMyPhoneWork to check if your phone is compatible with any network you are interested in.
A prepaid plan means that you pay for your services in advance. If you use up all of your calling minutes, text messages, and/or data, then you will have to pay for more before you can talk, text, or surf the internet again.
A monthly contract plan means that you pay for your services at the end of a scheduled payment period, usually on a set day each month. Often monthly contract plans won’t cut you off if you exceed your minutes, texts, or data, but the provider will charge you overage fees. These fees can be exorbitant, with most providers charging an overage fee of $10 per 100 MB of data once you exceed the amount prescribed in your plan.
For a monthly contract plan, most providers require new customers to complete a Canadian credit check before signing up for their phone plan. This can be tough for some newcomers, because they don’t have a credit history in Canada.
The question of prepaid vs. contract can be a tough one to answer.
What does a "Locked" phone mean?
When you purchase a phone from a mobile store, that phone us normally "locked" to that providor. For example, I personally have a phone on a contract with Bell, so my phone is likely to be "locked" to Bell. This means that the phone will only register SIM cards that are from Bell. In order to have this unlocked, you will just have to phone your mobile providor and request them to unlock it. They will ask you a couple of questions such as the serial number on your phone- usually found on the back of your phone or in settings. It should take a couple hours and your phone will be remotely unlocked.
A bill that was enacted in 2017 has restricted any costs associated with unlocking a phone, and any future phones being created with this feature. A win for the telecommunications patrons. The Canadian Wireless Code also enforces other restrictions on cancellation fees after 2 years and data overage charges/data roaming charges that can quickly skyrocket.
Whistle Out is a website that works to find you the best deal on a Canadian phone plan.
This user friendly site allows you to select between a "Bring Your Own (BYO) phone" plan, or buying a phone on a contract. You can select how much data, text & calls you would like in your plan and choose between many different phone providers across Canada.
What's the deal with data?
In Canada, we currently face some of the highest data costs in the world. When you are surfing the internet on your phone while not connected to WiFi, you are using mobile data. Each phone plan normally comes with a data plan on it, which is an allotted maximum within your plan.
Once your phone uses all of the data supplied in the plan, you may be subject to additional charges for extra data used. In years past, this has resulted in mobile phone bills shocking customers by being in the thousands. Jesse from Vancouver had his phone stolen from him and the perpetrator managed to rack up $24,000 in data charges before the phone was reported stolen.
In order to best keep this situation from happening to you, there are some steps you can take as preventative measures. I highly recommend speaking with a representative with your phone provider to inquire if they have a service that will text you a notification when you are nearing the end of your allotted data for that month. I use this service with Bell and it has helped me manage many very expensive phone bills. Check out this complete guide on how to manage your data usage at home.
What phone should I get?
Mobile phones have always been something I have found great interest in growing up. Having grown up at the same time as the I-phone, I found myself experimenting and trying out different phones for my favourites. Over the years, I have had more cell phones than a now-environmentalist cares to admit.
I learned that I-Phones come with a sense of status that no other phone will. There is no denying that. Iphones are capable of connecting other Iphone users in a way that makes them very unique and enticing. I have found that there is almost no alternative to Facetime on Iphone - except maybe videocalling on Facebook Messenger. IPhones bring "Imessage", which is a way to talk to your friends using wifi. There are special settings similar to the IM days such as 'read receipts' that many people still appreciate. Iphones are very very user friendly, with big bright buttons, clear fonts, and an overall smooth experience.
Android phones come in a variety of different styles and they bring much more creative freedom, fine-tuning, technical settings, and the ability to do almost anything you want to a phone if you have the time, patience and research. I have primarily bought phones from the Samsung Galaxy line and been very happy with them. You can personalize the phone using Themes, which is a library of different skins your phone can use.
Finally, the phone I am currently using is the Google Pixel. This phone line brings the user-friendliness and sleek interface like the I-phone, but also has the ability to personalize some things on it. I use the app Textra to make my phone's text bubbles colourful and text notifications unique. The thing that sets this phone apart from any other phone on the market, however, is the award winning camera. It comes with Night Mode settings that allow you to take crystal clear pictures in the right kind of darkness, and Portrait Mode which turns you into the best portrait photographer you never knew you were. This phone converts likelong I-phone users, and has converted me.
The choice is ultimately up to you. Don't forget that I have only spoken to three out of the hundreds of cell phones on the market. You should be able to identify the ways you plan to use your phone, the expectations you have from a phone and what kind of cell phone would be best for your lifestyle. I suggest asking for advise from the friendly mobile store clerks as well.