Wireless communication: What do you need to know?

Farm Forum

All this talk about mobile wallets, bitcoins, apps, and more, just makes me want to keep my “dumb phone” as some call it. There is so much to learn each day if you want to stay in tune with today’s technology and not spend a small fortune!

National Consumer Protection Week from March 2-8, 2014 is a great opportunity for you to learn about your rights and resources as a consumer. Every day, you make choices about the kinds of financial products you sign up for. Those choices affect you and your family. Like a box of cereal or a toaster, credit cards, home loans, and student loans are products sold every day to American families. The big difference is that there’s often no easy-to-understand price tag for consumer financial products like you see in the supermarket or local electronics store.

Every day, we make important decisions about finances, health, privacy, technology and more. The National Consumer Protection Week website ( offers consumers a wealth of tips and information from federal and state government and non-profit partner organizations.

Many of these things require a contract and several of them cost a considerable amount of money. Make sure you know and understand what you are signing or paying for. Choose plans and options that meets your needs.

Smart Phones

Smart phones are like miniature computers; they provide basic phone functions, along with advanced features, including browsing the Internet, accessing e-mail, interacting on social networks, listening to music, watching videos, uploading pictures, and managing your calendar. They also allow use of QWERTY keyboards (arranged the same way as a computer keyboard) to facilitate texting and e-mailing.

When shopping for a smart phone consider these tips:

• Consider the shape and size of the phone.

• Make sure you can easily use the keypad to make calls or send messages.

• Do you need to access the internet with your phone? If so, ask whether a data plan is needed and how much it costs; compare options carefully. Data plans govern use and costs associated with mobile access for e-mail, text messaging, web browsing, social networking and other applications.

• Take advantage of special pricing and promotions.

• Learn the return and cancellation policies.

• Be wary of buying phone insurance, which may sound tempting, but consumer groups generally advise against it.

If there is a particular phone model you are interested in buying, investigate which service providers actually carry the phone. If your service provider carries the phone, they may require you to renew or extend your current contract; you may also be required to upgrade the service plan you have in order to access all of the phone’s features. Some phones are available exclusively with only one service provider. This may require you to terminate a contract with your current provider and start a new contractual agreement with a new provider. Check what breaking that contract will cost if the date is not up yet. Also find out if you can keep the same phone number.

For more information on smartphone apps, privacy and safety concerns, pay as you go plans, or disposing of your old cell phones, check out the U.S. Governments official web portal at There is also information on the new method of making mobile payments using a digital wallet. Don’t let technology overwhelm you. Check the site out and become a wise consumer.

Reach Karen Slunecka at 605-626-2870 or