Hidden cell phone fees: Carriers making changes

AMARILLO, TX - New changes all three major cell phone providers are making may now cause your monthly cell phone bill to increase.
Effective immediately, AT&T has raised its data rates for all new customers by 20 percent.
Data plans will now start at $20.
Verizon Wireless no longer has unlimited 3G and 4G data, while T-Mobile slows down consumers mobile Internet speeds if they use more than 2 gigabytes of data per month.
Sprint PCS still has an unlimited data feature, but you'll be paying an additional $10/mo. congruent with your current data plan.
The 4G premium data fee apples to all smart phones on the Sprint PCS network, regardless of whether you have a 4G capable device.
Amarillo currently has spotty 4G coverage.
New towers and improvements to data speeds are expected to happen by June.
Currently, the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and Blackberry models on Sprint only operate at 3G speeds.
Now to hidden fees:
Best Buy tells us one of the biggest "hidden" fees consumers see on their bill is an activation charge.  
For all carriers, new activation fees cost $36 per line, while upgrade fees run $18 per line.
These fees are charged whenever you renew your contract for another 2-year term.
Also, be aware of insurance premiums and deductibles.
A $7/mo. insurance feature only guarantees you the right to a replacement phone should yours be lost, stolen or damaged.
A claim must still be filed via your network carrier and deductibles can range anywhere from $50 to $150.
Termination fees have also increased among carriers.
The average price to terminate your service prior to your 2-year commitment expiration date is $200/per line.
However, if you are using a smart phone, termination fees can be as high as $350.
Looking to save money? Prepaid carriers may be the best option for a lot of people.
Prepaid services like Boost Mobile offer an unlimited calling, text, and data rate plan for $50/mo with no hidden fees, activation fees or contracts.
The downfall---coverage!
Not all prepaid carriers work across the state and the U.S.
Here is a list of prepaid carriers offering service in our area:
*AT&T GoPhone
*Boost Mobile
*Virgin Mobile
How to get the best deal on a phone:
The first thing you should do is shop around.
Often, online retailers will have cheaper prices than what you may find in-store.
You will always get the best deal on a new device a month or two prior to your contract expiration.
Carriers will try their best to get you to renew your contract prior to that date.
Avoiding mail-in rebates:
Yes, they still exist!
The good news---places like Best Buy have canned mail-in rebates.
Misunderstandings regarding smart phones:
The iPhone 4 is not a 4G device. The "4" after the iPhone stands for the fourth generation product. 
3G vs. 4G:
In simple terms, 4G provides a richer data experience than 3G devices.
Text messaging capabilities and call quality have nothing to do with 3G, 4G and now, LTE.
For more information about phone carriers, devices, and plans, visit www.phonescoop.com