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By Eva Tam

My oversized silver flip phone, a Motorola T720, has taken a lot of abuse from me over the past two years.

It finally died last month, splitting in two after yet another fall to the pavement. Now, I am on a mission to find the best deal for me: An 18-year-old student who works once a week for $8 an hour. I step into Battery Plus, a store that sells Rogers packages.

I immediately notice the stylish pink Motorola RAZR, the phone that seems to dominate Toronto. “Pink is a special colour. But the truth is that the RAZR is not special anymore because everyone has it. You want to be special,” the salesperson, Jav, says. He’s nice, but I can’t believe he didn’t jump on the RAZR wagon. Instead, he introduces me to something a bit different: the Motorola Rokr — an mp3 player phone with camera function.

A three-year contract with Rogers, and I’ll get the Rokr for $49.99. “Rogers loves students,” he says. “We’ll give you three months of unlimited calling and also 1,000 minutes free, because you are a student.” After three months, I’ll be on a $30 plan — unlimited weekends and evenings and 200 week-day minutes. I’ll also get 1,000 Rogers-to-Rogers minutes. But, if I get the value pack of 75 text messages per month, voice mail and call display, that $30 plan will be more like $40, plus tax.

To me, that already sounds like a winner. Telus Mobility is next. When I walk in, no friendly salesperson greets me. Instead, I spot a row of cell phones in a glass case surrounded by people. I wait for a while and realize that no one will approach me the way Jav did. I help myself to flyers and brochures, and finally approach an employee, Anna, for clarification about Telus’s latest promotions. Anna introduces me to a plan called Phone-to-Phone 20.

It’s a $20 plan that includes 100 “anytime” minutes, 1,000 evening and weekend minutes and unlimited calls between Telus users. Even though this is the cheapest plan, I don’t find it useful. How can I spread only 100 minutes evenly across one whole month? The third store I visit is Bell World.

Although a salesperson named John greets me right away, he is not very keen on my request for a cheap cell phone package. “Our $20 package gets 50 anytime minutes and 1,000 evening and weekend minutes. You can get unlimited call waiting and text messaging for only $8,” he says. Is he for real? A 50-minute plan is actually what he’s suggesting to a university student? “Nice try,” I think. I’m out. The last store is actually a booth, Watch and Talk, that sells Fido phones.

The salesperson, Ali, quickly begins describing a plan for students where I’ll get unlimited minutes for the first three months. Fido’s best plan is $30 per month: unlimited evening and weekend minutes and 200 week-day minutes, text messaging not included. By paying only $8 per month more, I’d get caller ID and voicemail for the first 12 months. That’s already $38, without text messaging. “The best part about all of this is that you don’t need to pay any activation fee.

While other companies like Rogers and Telus need you to pay an activation fee,” Ali says. At the end of my adventure, when it comes to the one that fits my needs the most, Rogers wins, hands down. It has everything I need — sensible daytime minutes, unlimited weeknights and weekends, good amount of text messages, voice mail and call display. I did the calculations in my head.

Is it worth paying more than $30 a month for a cellphone plan?

The answer for me is Yes. My cellphone has become a daily part of my life: One day without it, and I’d be lost. Sign me up.

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