Cell phone services seem similar

I don't consider myself an expert in too many things,

at least outside of baseball history, state capitals

and having a tendency to attract strange females. But

after extensive research on determining the best cell

phone service, maybe I have found my calling.

HA! My

calling! Get it? Anyway, I figured the least I could

do with this newfound ability is to report

my findings. The four major companies I reviewed were,

in alphabetical order, AT&T Wireless, Cingular,

SprintPCS and Verizon.

AT&T

Wireless -- I

purchased this service almost two months ago, and so

far, I think

I made the

right decision. The plan I purchased for $29.99 includes

3000 Night/Weekend minutes and 300 Anytime minutes,

although 100 of those were "bonus" minutes,

like I was playing one of those lottery game shows.

My plan's service allows me to use my minutes within

a Home Calling Area, which stretches about 150-200

miles around me. Additionally this plan came with a

free Nokia phone, three months free roadside assistance

and a $50 gift certificate to a selection of stores

and restaurants.

That's the good news. Unfortunately,

the calling area is missing one main area I travel

regularly, and due

to latitude changes and trees, my service isn't even

available throughout the area shaded on the map. I

have been extremely disappointed at the lack of coverage

in my parents' neighborhood, considering other providers

work fine. I thought text messaging was included, but

apparently it is 10 cents a message. And up to this

point, I cannot access my account online or pay my

bill there, either.

Overall, this plan is good for the

money, especially considering I'm saving $5-20 a month

by eliminating

my home phone in favor of a cell phone. Once I'm able

to pay online and view my calls online, I'll feel a

little better.

Cingular --

The other guys in the office have this service, and

they

seem pretty satisfied

with it.

The newest plan includes 1000 Anytime minutes for $39.99,

and with a two-year contract, you can also receive

a free Motorola C331. All unused minutes rollover into

the next month, plus you can receive text messaging

free for the first two months. The home calling coverage

area is twice as large as the AT&T wireless plan

too.

This plan looks really good if you make a good

deal of calls during regular business hours, but if

you

plan on chatting forever like I do at night, you really

miss out on additional night and weekend minutes. The

coverage will more than likely run into similar problems

as with AT&T Wireless, especially because some

of the area shaded is most likely without well-equipped

towers. Although the two-year contract will net you

a phone, I was advised by a friend to look only at

one-year contracts, mainly because if you get screwed,

at least it lasts only 12 months. Additionally, I was

not offered a free phone as a new customer, but it

is possible you might be able to receive one.

Basically,

Cingular offers a competitive plan, especially for

my colleagues, but this particular deal doesn't

give me nearly enough nightly talk time. The guys I

work with all have hard lines at home, so they probably

don't need that additional talk time anyway. At the

very least I thought this company could have thrown

in a gift certificate or at least a party hat.

Sprint

PCS -- Many of my friends have this service,

and it appears to be just as good, if not better, than

the others. The PCS Free and Clear Plan is 300 Anytime

minutes and unlimited Nights & Weekend minutes

for $30, which is comparable to AT&T. For $5 more,

you can purchase unlimited PCS to PCS calling, which

means you can call anyone else with a Sprint phone

and it won't count against your minutes. A free phone

is also available to those who sign up.

The biggest

problem I've noticed with Sprint is a weaker coverage

area. Main highways are serviced, but at least

one travel path I regularly take is not. I had originally

planned on going with Sprint, but the smaller service

area would have been a major hinderance in having a

cell phone.

Sprint is probably the best plan for the

money in major cities. The service also works well

if you're traveling

a great deal through major cities and such. If many

of your friends also have Sprint, paying $5 extra will

allow you to talk to them until your ears fall off.

NOTE

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO TALK ON CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING:

First off, it frustrates me to see people

holding a cell phone while driving. How can you hold

a burger AND a cell phone and drive? I've done this

a few times, but I avoid it with the use of an earpiece.

I would guess this will become standard, and quite

possibly, holding a cell phone while driving could

be banned in the near future. So you might want to

get used to the earpiece now.

Verizon — My

sister, dad and stepmom use Verizon, and they seem

comfortable

with it. Again, the plans

seem comparable to the others, but more so to Cingular's

primary plan: $39.99 gets you 300 Anytime minutes,

unlimited Night & Weekend minutes, plus a bonus

100 Anytime minutes and 1000 Mobile to Mobile minutes.

The key to this plan is some of the minutes can be

shared with other plans, so in the case of my family,

they can actually share their minutes and not have

to purchase separate plans. Additional phone lines

are $20 a month.

One drawback to this plan is having

to pay for a phone. With any of the phone services,

you would have to pay

for a top-of-the-line phone, but with most, a free

basic phone is available.

If you have a group of people

who want cell phone service, and who can share minutes,

this would be

a pretty good

deal.

You may have additional cell phone services,

like Nextel, in your area, but more than likely,

they are just resellers

of these services. Each company appears to have

similar plans, yet each also has unique benefits.

I would

urge you to keep track of your usage minutes

so that you

do not go over your alloted time. Extra minutes

are expensive, and if you think you may go over,

you

should be able to purchase another 100 or so.

Also, most phones

are set up to track night minutes depending on

your current time zone, not the time zone in

which the

service was purchased. This can be seen on your

monthly statement.

Good luck on making your purchase.

I'm not really advocating any particular service,

so pick your

favorite. As far

as I can tell, strange females appear to use

all of the above types of service. BEWARE!