Opting for a pay as you go (otherwise known as prepaid) plan simply means you pay for the exact amount of talk time that you use from your chosen service provider. In other words, they offer full control over the minutes you use and remove the responsibility of a binding monthly fee and contract.
Pay as you go phones don’t even require you to register your name – only the mobile number is needed for your account. You will however need to buy a phone from the same provider as you get your talk time from. With most providers, you will need to top up your account every 90 days to keep the account active, but you have full say over the exact amounts you choose.
In contrast, while mobile phone contracts entail you paying a set monthly fee in return for an agreed amount of free minutes and texts, many providers don’t let you carry those minutes over to the next month if you don’t use them, so in fact you lose value on your contract price.
Prepaid phones are most popular with teenagers who don’t have credit cards or a regular income to ensure payment of a monthly contract. They are also the preferred choice of adults who only use their mobiles minimally so don’t need a standard contract and with senior citizens who enjoy the simplicity.
Most pay as you go handsets focus on the core function of talking, so they don’t tend to come with the advanced features of smartphones. Prepaid deals however vary according to the provider, so it’s important to shop around and compare the available packages to find the product that best suits you.
The following section outlines the main features to keep an eye out for when deciding on the pay as you go phone that is right for you.
If you’re interested in a handset based on stylish design, colour and size, there are a variety of models to choose from. As with all mobiles, pay as you go phones come in three main forms – slider, flip-top and candy bar. Size-wise, most prepaid phones are similar, being just the right fit for your pocket. While it’s important to find a mobile that makes you satisfied in terms of good looks, don’t forget to balance that with the necessary features that make them practical.
This feature is highly useful when you’re in places such as the cinema or a library where you don’t want the intrusive ringing of an incoming call. By switching to this mode, the phone will merely vibrate to alert you to a call or text. You can also choose to have a combined ring tone and vibration for times when you might not hear the sound, such as on busy high streets.
This determines how many contacts you are able to store in your phone. Capacities vary depending on the brand and model, but most pay as you go mobiles come with at least a 200 contact limit, which is enough for most people’s needs.
This feature comes in handy when multitasking – speakerphone allows you to talk and get other things done at the same time. It saves you having to grip the phone between your neck and shoulder as you move about.
All mobiles have a battery life measured in two ways – talk time when you make and receive calls and standby time when your phone is idle. The general rule of thumb for choosing adequate battery life sufficient for most days is that it should last a minimum of three hours without the need for a recharge.
Interruptions are often inevitable when on a call, so it’s a good idea to choose a prepaid phone with features to tackle this. Call holding will put the person you’re speaking with on hold while you deal with such things as a question from a colleague or a knock at the door. Call waiting allows you to pause a conversation so you can take a second incoming call and then return to the original one. Conference allows you to talk to multiple people on your mobile at the same time.
In summary, pay as you go phones allow you to enjoy the benefits and convenience of having a mobile without being bound to a fixed contract which you cannot cancel until the agreed term is met. With the wide range of deals currently available to choose from, it’s essential to compare different packages to find the one that’s most suitable to your lifestyle.
Peter Williams is a mobile communications consultant and retailer of pay as you go phones.