France has high mobile phone penetration rate and almost everyone has a mobile phone. GSM (Global System for Mobile Technology) is the standard in Europe. Phones equipped for GSM, tri-band, or unlocked can be used in France. Coverage (couverture or réseaux) is fairly standard throughout the country and most providers will provide adequate service.
All mobile numbers in France begin with 06. Incoming calls are free and you only pay for outgoing mobile phone calls. Calls are usually around .55 cents per minute.
There are providers stores in most major cities in which to buy a phone. Most vendors will require you to show a passport/ID card when signing up for service. Assistance is usually available in English as well.
An alternative to buying a new phone can be to buy a new SIM card. This would provide a French phone number and normal mobile rates. If your phone is locked, a specialist telecom shops can help you unlock the phone for between €20-30. All major operators now provide SIM only contracts from as little as 2€ per month - but usally ~€20 with unlimited Internet access (Free, Sosh-Orange, B&You-Bouygues and Joe Mobile-SFR).
Different companies offer different prices and contract terms. A contract should detail the terms and offer lower calling rates than prepaid cards. Many new arrivals start with a prepaid phone and then convert to a contract when they have determined their needs. Read all the conditions as ending a contract prematurely can be very expensive.
There are some basic points you need to consider for choosing the right deal.
Personal Use: Evaluate how much you use the phone, when, where you are calling, how often you use short message services (SMS), if you use the phone abroad, etc.
Coverage: Most important if you live in a remote place or regularly using the mobile while traveling in the countryside as most companies offer decent coverage.
Fees & Rates: Each operator offers several different plans and options. Investigate the plans carefully and evaluate your needs.
Prepaid phones offer maximum flexibility for higher rates per minute. Users pay in advance for credits which are used to make calls. Additional credit can be purchased from Tabacs, petrol stations, online, and directly from mobile retailer.
Prepaid plans can be as confusing as contracts. Take into consideration these points when picking a card:
However since 2012 you have many offers with SIM-only and no long term contract with all-included price ~€20/month and starting as cheap as €2/month with Free (see Free, Sosh-Orange, B&You-Bouygues and Joe Mobile-SFR)