With the dozens of options available, how do you choose the best cell phone for your needs? How do you know if one style of phone is actually more functional than another, and how can you know if one brand of phone is superior to others?

Don’t be lulled into thinking that any single article can tell you which phone is best for you. One article simply equals one writer’s opinion. You have to read several articles about cell phone reliability and functionality. Then, there are questions you can ask a sales representative at a cell phone service provider’s retail location, on the provider’s Web site or over the phone that can narrow your options, drill down beyond your research and help you zero in on the phone that will work best for you.

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Here are the key questions to ask a cell phone service provider before you purchase a hand-held device:

1) Which phone manufacturer’s products work BEST with your company’s service?

If the representative is honest, he or she will tell you which brands are the most harmonious with that provider’s cell towers, coverage and switching equipment. The reality is that each provider offers slightly, or in some cases, dramatically different levels of service than their competitors in certain markets, and some hand-held devices simply are more compatible than others within a service provider’s network.

2) From among the recommended manufacturer’s choice of devices, which one has the highest satisfaction rate among your customers?

It’s possible the representative won’t want to get that specific with you, but press the issue. You may want to make sure you ask this question on the phone through the provider’s toll-free number so that the representative has a nationwide perspective on popularity of devices, instead of just a single-location perspective.

3) Why do you think that particular model of phone has the highest satisfaction rating?

The representative should respond with statements about general ease of use; reliability; battery life; convenience and reliability of accessories, such as Bluetooth; and intuitive use of features. He or she should not emphasize the price point, because that’s subjective and can indicate that the device is cheaply made or overpriced.

4) What glitches with that phone model have your customers encountered?

Again, press the representative for honesty. If she or she says, “Well, none that I know of,” take that with a giant grain of salt. Hand-held devices ALL have some issues occasionally, whether it’s scrolling through the menu, backlighting of the screen, receiving text messages in a timely fashion or the buttons sticking, as just a few examples.

5) How easily resolved are those problems?

Does the phone typically have to be replaced, or can it be repaired easily? If the phone usually must be replaced after a problem crops up, that’s not a good sign. Problems should be easily fixable.

6) What is the base price of the phone, both with and without a two-year contract?

If it’s above your price range, start the questioning process over, by modifying the second and third questions to insert the phrase “second-highest” satisfaction rate.

If you can’t get straight answers to these questions, consider looking at another carrier. At least one carrier should be able to help you get the most reliable phone for you by providing the vital information you need.