a, Science & Technology

Cracking the Canadian cell phone code

The quest for the best cell phone deal is not unlike finding the Holy Grail. Everyone knows a friend of a friend that somehow secured a $40 six-gigabyte plan, but nobody really knows how they got it. Cell phone salespeople offer cryptic promises and deals, but are they just padding the company’s bottom line? Understanding and navigating “cell-hell” can seem daunting, but it’s not impossible—if you know what to look for.

Phones can be separated into three price ranges. Low-end devices retail for under $250, mid-range devices retail for $250 to $450, and high-end devices retail from $450 to over $900. Choosing between these categories depends on what you’re specifically looking for. Consumers should opt for high-end devices if they rely heavily on their phones for multimedia and camera functions, and don’t want to sacrifice speed. Those who are moderate app users would be perfectly happy with a mid range device—if they are willing to sacrifice brand recognition.

Choosing a price plan becomes a lot easier once you’ve chosen a phone. Price plans are directly related to the price of the phone you pick; a typical iPhone6 plan is on the high-end price scheme (upwards of $60 per month). This can be explained through the concept of economic inducement—the idea that your chosen service provider will subsidize the cost of your new device knowing that your future monthly service charges will work towards paying off that subsidy. 

Pricing schemes for devices and plans will also change depending on the type of service provider you choose. There are two types of service providers: The premium parent companies, Rogers, Bell and Telus; and their subsidiaries, Fido, Virgin Mobile, and Koodo. Premium service providers offer larger subsidies, up to $500, on high-end devices and better high-usage service plans. Their subsidiaries will offer better Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) pricing, which allows the consumer to save a minimum of 10 per cent on monthly fees, as well as not being responsible for any economic inducement. 

Don’t be fooled by websites and promotions; all companies generally follow the same pricing scheme.

It’s important to consider what sort of network you prioritize before deciding on a service provider. Don’t be fooled by websites and promotions; all companies generally follow the same pricing scheme.

Take the 2GB Share Everything plan from Rogers. It comes with unlimited nation-wide calling, caller ID, voicemail and two-gigabytes of data. It costs $75 per month if you want to buy a high end device like the iPhone6. The price will be the same with Bell and Telus. With Virgin and Fido, you can get that same iPhone6 for a minimum of $75 per month that includes unlimited nation-wide calling, caller ID, voicemail and four-gigabytes of data.

Despite all having very similar plans and pricing, Bell and Telus offer the best coverage outside metropolitan areas; however, Rogers offers the best coverage for city-dwellers and has considerably faster network speeds in large metropolitan areas. Average download speeds were 32.7Mbps for Rogers, 23Mbps for Bell and 17.2Mbps for TELUS. Indeed, Rogers has heavily biased speed-over-latency across its network; it offers the fastest ISP both on the mobile and cable side. Bell and Telus have a better range and more reliable coverage on the East and West Coast  respectively.

The wireless network quality study, conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, measured how often Canadian customers suffered service interruption. BCE Inc.’s wireless arm Bell and Telus Corp. were graded as the best in Ontario, while Rogers was rated worst in both Western and Eastern Canada.

Before stepping into a cell phone store, always be conscious of what you need your cellphone to do for you. Furthermore, it is important to do your own research before commiting to a phone. While today, smartphones only really last two-or-so years, monthly service fees last a minimum of two years. The initial big savings afforded to you by the service provider can often trick consumers into taking too high a monthly fee. 

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