Unless you happen to be tech savvy, or you keep an eye on the latest mobile developments, choosing a mobile deal can be pretty confusing. Not only are there an array of dazzling new phones on the market, but where do you start when it comes to deciding on whether to get a contract – and if so, which contract?
Here, we’ll try to demystify things for you. We’ll offer a few practical steps. Follow these, and you should be well on the way to a mobile deal that suits you. What’s more, you’ll have saved some hard-earned pennies along the way.
Do you need a new phone?
Okay, you may have already made your mind up but it’s worth asking the question. Can you keep your existing device and get a cheaper package for it? If you’re set on changing your phone, do you need the latest all singing, all dancing device? Despite the competition, the most recent models are frankly, still expensive items.
Buy a phone or get it on contract?
One of the critical decisions you’re going to need to make is whether to buy your phone or get one included with a mobile phone contract. Essentially, you have three choices:
- Buy your phone yourself. This is the cheapest option in the long term but obviously, involves you having to fork out for the device up front. If you can do this, you’ll then be able to get a SIM only deal for your phone.
- Finance the phone. This might sound complicated, but it needn’t be. If you’ve access to a credit card, particularly one with a 0% deal, this could be a great way of spreading the cost while keeping the price down. Alternatively, you may be able to get a short-term loan to cover the cost of the phone. With this option, you’d again need a SIM only contract to go with the handset.
- Get a handset with a contract. For many of us, this is the default option. You take out a contract with a provider who gives you the handset along with an agreed plan, usually for two years. This might be the most expensive option as the cost of the device is often marked up by the provider. However, for a convenient monthly charge, it can be the simplest option.
What is the difference between a contract, a SIM only plan and a Pay as you Go (PAYG) plan
With a contract, you’ll typically get a handset plus an inclusive bundle of talk time minutes, texts and data use. With contracts, the handset price is included and spread out over the term of the contract. This means there is less, and in some cases, nothing to pay upfront. You are however locked into the contract for a fixed period so make sure you check this in advance. Remember, your provider may also be allowed to put up the monthly price during your term so keep an eye out for that too.
With a SIM only contract, you provide the handset yourself and then choose a plan to go with it. Some SIM only contracts are fixed for a period of time like a conventional contract, while others allow you to terminate with typically a months’ notice. This can be useful if you want to keep the flexibility and can afford to buy the handset upfront.
A pay as you go or PAYG plan means that you’re not tied in to any contract. You’ll need an ‘unlocked phone’ do get a PAYG plan. This simply means that it is no longer tied to a particular contract. You then choose a PAYG plan to suit you. These days there are bundled packages (talk time, texts and data) available as well as standard tariff based packages. It’s a case of working out which is best for you.
Okay, I know I want a contract, how do I get the cheapest one?
Well done for getting that far! The most important thing we can tell you is to shop around. A quick entry in a search engine will show you that there’s a dizzying array of deals out there, so there are some things you can do to make things a little easier.
- Do some thinking yourself in advance. You know better than anyone the calls and texts you’re likely to make each month. Reflect on how much data you’ll use with social media, emails and the internet. It’s best to think about the ‘worst case’ rather than under calling it, going over an allowance can be expensive.
- Do some research on what phone’s you like. Which ones are best suited to your needs? As well as the look and feel, screen size, camera quality and processing speeds can all vary quite considerably.
- What is your signal strength like? Check in advance what signal strength you’ll get in areas that you’ll use the phone. The four main networks, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone don’t provide the same strength to all areas. If you live somewhere a bit more remote, this is an important consideration.
- Compare prices through comparison sites. There are a number of mobile phone comparison sites like Tiger Mobiles or the handy BillMonitor service that will find various deals for you. If you’ve not got the time yourself, this can be a convenient way to find the best deal for you.
- If you’re going to a shop to buy a mobile phone, do this research in advance. Salesmen can be persuasive creatures and you don’t want to be cajoled into a deal that’s not right for you!
- Whether you’re in a shop or on the internet, if you’re feeling brave, haggle. You may be surprised to find that providers are often prepared to move on price and the deals they will offer if you ask. If you’re in an existing contract, ask if you can upgrade early. This might yield a better phone for the same price.
There we go; hopefully, you feel better equipped to find yourself a mobile phone deal that suits you at the best possible price. Good luck.