Angie's LIST Guide to
Phone services

When it comes to telephone service, consumers have many options, from conventional cell phones to smart phones to traditional land lines.The following overview will help you tell what services are right for you.
 

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Long gone are the days of land line phones serving as the home’s sole line of communication. Options include land lines but increasingly focus on cell phone technology. (Photo by Chantal Lawrie)
Long gone are the days of land line phones serving as the home’s sole line of communication. Options include land lines but increasingly focus on cell phone technology. (Photo by Chantal Lawrie)
 
 

Should I keep my land line?

Some consumers wonder whether a land line is necessary when they rely on their cell phone for most of their phone services. Before you decide, keep in mind that land lines are generally considered the most reliable phone service. For example, if your area suffers an electricity outage, a corded phone attached to a land line will still work even after your cell phone or other devices have lost battery power.

Also, if you place an emergency 911 call on a land line, the local dispatch center will receive your precise address. But in the case of 911 calls made on cell phones, the dispatch center receives an approximate location based on coordinates transmitted by the service carrier. In an emergency, precious minutes could be lost while the response team tries to decipher a caller's location based on the cell phone data.

Phone service options

When deciding on telephone services, take some time to review what you need and what features you'd like. Here are factors to consider:

Traditional land lines: Even in this age of mobile phones, some people may only need land line service. Think about what land line features you'll want, such as voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID and long distance.

Conventional cell phones: These typically offer voice calls, text messaging, rudimentary Internet access, cameras and music.

Smart phones: These feature more sophisticated operating systems, expanded Internet, high-speed data processing and additional functions.

Mobile phone carrier: Many mobile phone carriers require a one- to two-year contract, which usually requires a fee to cancel. However, many phones are also available through prepaid plans, which are becoming a top way to cut mobile phone costs.

Ask about additional fees, such as for activation, roaming, government taxes, pass throughs and other services. Don't forget to actually read the service contract so you can challenge any unauthorized fees later.

Consider coverage area when choosing a carrier. Some plans cover only a local area, others include some adjacent states and others provide nationwide service.

How to get better phone service

When you have a problem with your telephone service, follow these tips for effective complaining:

  • Before you call customer service, read the contract and any relevant documents to determine your applicable rights, though remedies may not be restricted to contract terms.
  • Decide in advance what outcome you believe would resolve the situation, such as a refund, replacement or account credit.
  • Take notes about each contact, including date, time, names and summaries of conversations.
  • Approach the customer service department calmly and politely. Service representatives may deal more fairly with you if you treat them with respect.
  • Cushion the sting of the criticism by sandwiching your complaint with comments about what you like about the service or products.
  • If you're still not satisfied, ask to speak to the customer service rep's supervisor. Continue to escalate to higher levels, if necessary. Eventually, you may decide to write to the company CEO or to post your complaint on the company's Facebook, Twitter or other social media page.
  • If the situation is severe enough, consider filing a complaint with a state regulatory agency and the Federal Communications Commission.

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