Phillips: Cell phones deserve a closer look

Phillips: Cell phones deserve a closer look

November 14th, 2009 by Ellen Phillips in Business Ellen Phillips

This past summer, the Federal Communications Commission asked Americans to weigh in on whether consumers are informed enough to make decisions about their cell phone service. Statistically, eight out of 10 people overpay their cell phone bills -- to the tune of $800 million dollars total so far this year.

So again, I take my hat off to anyone trying to help preserve some of our hard-earned money, such as BillShrink.

Remember, this is the company that offers its free data and personalized recommendations to millions of us who use certain services such as cell phones.

The four national providers BillShrink covers are AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, not only because they're the largest but also they serve about 80 percent of wireless subscribers.

BillShrink ranks plans only by what we most care about -- the total cost and the degrees of match to our individual needs. In fact, the company shows exactly the same information available on your phone carrier's site, as well as others so you can compare similar plans at once.

Moreover, BillShrink tracks all services and their details 24/7, an amazing feat. I was shocked to discover potential users are exposed to a dizzying array of over 10 million cell phone plans and add-on combinations.

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I traveled all around the country on book tours, perhaps the most important feature to me was the ability to communicate with folks whenever and wherever necessary without costly or, worse, hidden fees.

(Needless to say, vocal clarity carries lots of weight, too, especially with my LA -- Lower Alabama -- accent.) Based upon extensive research, BillShrink believes cell phone service that consumers most demand center around home, work, and commute reliability.

Just as with its gas stations and credit cards recommendations, BillShrink recommends wireless phone providers based upon an individual's input into its program, and nothing could be easier. Initially, when entering the wireless application for the first time, the company gives a person the opportunity to provide his or her wireless usage profile. Once keyed in, BillShrink automatically creates your usage profile by analyzing what you actually used as seen by details from your most recent monthly billing statement.

Once you are in the application and review your recommendations, you can see a summary of your usage profile in the top-left corner; at this point, you should be able to refine your profile by selecting the "Edit Usage Profile" button and Voila!

As long as BillShrink knows how much you are spending per month (via phone bill), you're able to see for yourself just how much money you'll save with different plans. If you're locked into a cell phone contract, a super dooper feature factors in any applicable activation and termination fees and give you a bottom-line savings figure.

Don't forget the wireless market is dynamic and ever-changing with new plans, features, pricing and so forth; therefore, BillShrink's wireless alerts about these updates are especially important to help you save money. If you need assistance at any point during the process, feel free to e-mail or live chat at

Co-founder and vice president, Samir Kothari, reiterates that Billshrink's goal is to build a long-term relationship with consumers -- the company's users -- to make sure we never overpay.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business. E-mail her at