To use any mobile device as a phone, you must sign up with a mobile carrier (I chose Verizon Wireless, but there are a lot of them out there). Like landline carriers, you generally sign up with some sort of plan. The mobile carriers generally offer their plans based on monthly usage of talk minutes, number of text messages, and volume of data. Many plans allow for unlimited talk and text, and some number of gigabytes of data – some of the plans are not that expensive. Mobile carriers are to wireless communication what Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are to home or work Internet service.
When accessing the Internet via wireless, a lot of data can be grabbed, eating into your monthly allowance. The way around this with a phone or tablet is to look at your data in a location with free wi-fi, such as a local restaurant (many of us have our “office” at Panera or Starbucks). With wi-fi access, the data comes in free, so you don’t wreck your plan budget. Also, many of us have wi-fi-only tablets, requiring wi-fi to access the outside world. Last but not least, if you are using a router at home for networking, wi-fi is built in (in other words, use the Internet on your phone or tablet at will if you are home).
As I’ve mentioned before, apps control everything. Verizon loads several apps on your phone when you sign up for their service. For example, the My Verizon Mobile app controls viewing of usage, your bill, etc.
One annoyance – Voice Mail is not part of the phone app! I had some unread voice mails because I didn’t think of using the Voice Mail app to read them – fortunately, none were mission-critical. I don’t know how other carriers handle this, but with Verizon, you have to check this yourself – unless you want to pay $3 extra for visual voice mail. If you don’t want this extra service, you can still call voice mail like you do with a non-smart phone and it works fine.