Advice on Choosing the Right Mobile Phone Deal
The best advice anyone could give when choosing your next phone deal would be to know what you want, and a big part of that is understanding what you need. The two are often not the same thing! To work out what you need you need look no further than your last few mobile phone bills. Take a look at:
- How many minutes you are using
- How many text / SMS messages you use
- How much data you consume
Also allow for any known spikes you may encounter, for example holiday periods where you may use more data. Also pay attention to any international roaming charges you may have used as this may steer you away from PAYG toward Sim Only (something we will cover further down this page).
Once you have some sense of the above jotted down on a scrap of paper, write down your budget per month too!
Armed with that data you can begin searching for the best offers based on your individual criteria, however, there are a few caveats:
Up Front Fees vs Free Handsets
Ok lets clear one thing up, there is no such thing as a "free phone", the price of any free or inclusive handsets is absorbed over the life of the contract. The cheapest deals calculated over the life of the contract usually do not offer free phones but involve an up front fee to offset the price of the handset. If you average this cost out over the life of the contract you will find they are indeed cheaper, but, do you really want to put down a large up front payment to shave a few pounds per month off your phone contract?
Well, if you have a lot of savings in the bank and are "super frugal" then yes, but for most people the answer is no, so for you the best offer will be one that includes a free phone. By default we show cheapest first, and the offers we promote as "best" do have an up front fee, however, just reduce the handset price slider to zero to find offers with free handsets.
SIM Only vs Pay As You Go
A few years back PAYG were seen as the cheapest way to own a mobile phone, and I guess they still are as long as you do not make many calls with it! The fact is, if you are spending more than £8 per month on credit you would almost certainly be better off with a SIM Only deal.
Sim Only Deals are contracts, but the committal period is usually only 30 days. If you compare this to PAYG where credit often has a 30 day lifespan the financial tie in is pretty much the same. The only difference is that:
- You have to cancel a SIM Only Contract if you want to stop using it, whereas on PAYG you just stop buying credit
- You will be billed each month for SIM Only regardless of your usage
Usage is key here, like we said above, PAYG is a great way to own a phone you do not really make calls with. But, if you are actively using the phone then consider switching to SIM Only. Why? In a nutshell:
- Free Inclusive Minutes
- Free Inclusive Text Messages
- Free Inclusive Data
- Cheaper International Roaming Charges
In particular data is a LOT CHEAPER on SIM Only than on PAYG, so if you find yourself using apps, checking into FaceBook, Twitter, sending Email on the move then again, your almost certainly better off with SIM Only than PAYG.
Choosing the Right Phone
Deciding which phone you want can be confusing, particularly with the array of smartphones on offer. The first thing to think about is what you actually need or want. If you just want to make calls and send texts the old fashioned way then you dont really need to think about it at all, just go with the cheapest feature phone you can find!
If you want a smartphone then you really need to consider which operating system you think you would prefer.
- Apple IOS is only available on Apple handsets. Its a good operating system, slick, reliable, plenty of apps but Apple do tie you into their way of doing things.
- Android is the most popular operating system at the moment, but there are many versions, that said it is unlikely there will be a "killer feature" missing from older versions, so unless you have very specific requriements you dont need to stress yourself too much. Like IOS, android has a lot of apps available, one thing worth checking with budget phones is that they access the Google Play Store and not some other smaller app outlet. Cheaper devices may not be fully compatible with the Play Store and offer an alternative, these alternatives are always inferior, best to stick with something that has Google Play Access.
- Windows Mobile is another good choice. It lacks the number of apps of either Android or IOS but is a slick easy to use operating system which has the added benefit of integrating more effectively with other Microsoft products and software
- BlackBerry OS10, this is also a good OS but the number of apps is far less on this operating system. If you want a reliable business phone with good email support and are happy with a core set of apps then Blackberry still make some great phones. Older versions of BlackBerry OS are still a viable proposition but only for email, social (twitter, facebook) and other popular apps, you are unlikely to find the more obscure apps on these versions, and even the apps you do find will be dated. But, as we say, BlackBerry remains a good choice for email and make great quality handsets.
Operating systems on feature phones are very different, older systems like Symbian are still commonplace and do a good job all be it they offer more limited functionality.
You should already be aware that at the moment the best selling brands are Apply and Samsung (Android phones). They both make great handsets. Samsung have the edge in terms of performance and features but Apple have better quality chasis's and lets face it, they are the more desirable brand for the rabid consumerist!
However, you would be selling yourself short if you did not also consider HTC who make top quality phones for both Android and Windows OS and Sony who also have some great android phones. Motorolla have a couple of decent models too but have fallen behind in terms of their technology, however a lot comes down to price, a heavily discounted Motorolla could offer better value than one of Samsungs Galaxy Range.
We recommend you take a look at the following handsets:
- Galaxy Ace 2 (mid range)
- Galaxy SII (an older high end handset with some great offers on at the moment)
- Galaxy SIII - high end phone and a best seller
- Galaxy S4 - Samsungs latest model, offers some advantages over the S3
- Galaxy Note - Larger phone, bordering on the size of a mini tablet, great if you want to combine the features of a small tablet and a phone, brilliant for apps!
- iPhone 5 - Apples latest offering
- iPhone 4S - Apples previous model, a little dated now but available at a more competitive price
- Sony Xperia series - great Android phones, tactile, nice to use, good build quality
Your choice of network should be based on two things:
- Coverage in your area, or areas you work in / visit
Most networks have pretty good coverage these days.
Prices vary a lot between networks.
Customer service is pretty similar between networks, we think Orange (now EE) offer great customer service, perhaps why they remain one of the more expensive providers.
Again we would not favour a particular retailer, we would go with the cheapest. There is an exception to this though and that is if you are considering cash by redemption offers. In the past some retaileres have gone bust and left customers expecting cash back later in their contract out of pocket. If you are concerned about this stick with the larger retailers like CarPhone Warehouse, E2Save, BuyMobilePhones, Phones4U etc.