When cell phones were first introduced, they were heavy, bulky and expensive. Good reception was a major problem and battery life was severely limited. These days, cell phones provide an incredible array of functions, and new models are being added at a breakneck pace. Depending on your cell-phone model, you can: store contact information, make to-do lists, use the built-in calculator, download information from the Internet, play simple games, and even listen to music.

Camera cell phones are one of the newest and neatest pieces of pocket technology on the market. Camera cell phones have benefited from the ever-shrinking microchip technology, making the phones more affordable and the pictures more viewable. If you want to purchase a camera phone, consider the quality of the pictures you want to take. Most camera phones have less than one mega pixel resolution which produces low-quality images. If you really need to take clear photos, check out a camera phone with 3 or more mega pixels. And always buy one with a removable memory card which will allow you to upgrade the camera’s memory capacity and allow you to more easily transfer photos to a computer or printer.

Selecting a cell phone is no longer just about communication–it is now a lifestyle choice. If you don’t get one to fit your personality, you won’t be satisfied. Text messaging or “texting” in now a standard feature on most cell phones. Multimedia messaging allows you to send audio, video and pictures. Some of the newer phones are designed with entertainment as a primary function. They can play music MP3 files, stored video, movies and even video games. Random House hopes to cash in on the cell phone phenomenon by offering foreign language courses using cell phone text.

And more changes are on the way! “Charge it to my cell phone,” is an instruction that store clerks may soon hear in increasing numbers. Phones that can be swiped against credit card readers are already on sale in Asia and U.S. cell phone manufacturers are seriously studying the technology. A new report from the Diffusion Group, a consumer technology think-tank, shows that most consumers are comfortable playing music and videos on their cell phones and that more than 30% of the U.S. consumers surveyed wanted to watch TV on their cell phones as well. According to the survey, more than 70% of U.S. households now own at least one cell phone.

When it comes to buying a cell phone there are several ways to compare makes and models. Just like when buying a car, there are countless options, models and prices from which to choose. Talking to a sales rep in a cell store seems to be a good way to compare phones, but that is not always the case. They are going to try to steer you towards a certain brand or model because their commission may depend on it, and they may have limited knowledge of the various manufacturers and service providers.

Checking online reviews from customers is a great way to research cell phones. Doing research in magazines such as Consumer Reports will probably give you some valuable information about specific models. Talking to friends is always a reliable way to research different products. Since most of your friends and family probably have a cell phone, you’ll be able to get reliable information about phone models and service plans. You can learn from their mistakes or follow their lead and use what they’re using.

Once you have your phone, the next step is choosing a service provider or carrier. You need not rush into anything when choosing a cellular phone provider. Remember when there was only one phone company? Thanks in part to technology, cellular phone providers are working hard to improve service and reception in all areas. There is now so much competition, that with just a little research, you can find the exact plan that specifically fits your needs. Are there major concerns about a service provider other than price? According to Consumer Reports, dropped calls and misleading billing are the leading irritants for cell phone customers.

The importance of cell phones has increased the competition in the wireless service provider industry, making cell phones affordable, dependable and easy to use. Cell phones have gone from an elite status symbol to a reliable convenience which provides information and security.

With the exponential increase in the number of people using cell phones, it is more important to understand how to use your phone without being obnoxious or irritating. For example, it is a good idea to put your cell phone on vibrate (rather than ring) when in restaurants, theaters, churches, weddings and funerals. As for ring tones, not everyone appreciates being bombarded with Creedance Clearwater Revival or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Suggestion– use the vibrate feature in all public places.