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Key Points » was launched in October 1999, with the goal of making it easier for consumers to make unbiased comparisons of wireless phones and plans. Much like the then-evolving market for comparing airfares online, we saw the Internet as a way to simplify the even more complex purchase of a phone and plan together. By creating interactive software that lets users find solutions unique to their needs, MyRatePlan has become a destination site visited by thousands of people daily to get the facts they need to make an informed purchase decision.

Since our founding, the wireless industry has consolidated into five national carriers*; cell phones have morphed from bricklike objects into lightweight color marvels; and the price for making calls has fallen to the point that more than 200 million people in the U.S. have a cell phone, with many of them using it as their primary or only telephone. Furthermore, the carriers are giving users more choice, and with the advent of number portability in late 2003, consumers have more flexibility than ever. However, added choices can mean added confusion, and we're finding that many of the same questions we heard in the early days are still being asked today.

The goal of this guide is to convey what we've learned over the past seven years, to help you find the best phone and the most efficient plan for your unique calling needs, while minimizing the amount you spend for wireless service each month.

*Two of these five, Sprint and Nextel, merged in 2005, but these two carriers use different technologies and branding messages, so we continue to view them as separate.

How to Use This Guide

Unless otherwise specified, the information in this guide relates to the purchase of a cell phone and plan only in the U.S. The purchase of phones and plans in other countries can vary significantly from the process in the U.S.

This is an interactive guide — if you are viewing this guide on your computer screen, note that words or terms in blue are hyperlinked, either to another place in the guide, to a page on, or to another website. These links will provide more information on the subject matter, including MyRatePlan software tools to help you locate the phone and plan that best meets your needs.