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Which service and/or phone should I get?
Your primary concern when shopping for a service provider (carrier) should be coverage in the areas where you'll use your phone. The cheapest plan or snazziest phone are worthless if you can't make calls where you need to.
Don't pay attention to blanket statements about which carrier has better coverage in general or in the past. Coverage can vary wildly in different areas, and improve dramatically over time. So try to find people in your area who currently use the carrier you're considering, and ask about their recent experience with coverage, signal, and dropped calls.
As for phones, everyone has different needs. If you know the features you want in your phone, try our Phone Finder to find the perfect phone for you. You can also ask for advice in the Forums.
Once you have it down to a few candidate phones, check out the User Reviews here on the site, and if you still have any questions, you can ask in the dedicated Forum for that phone.