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Choosing the right mobile deal can be a complex business, especially so if you're trying to get hold of a new handset and a SIM at the same time. Even if you're buying your very first mobile contract, though, we have all the information you need. Read this page carefully and you will know everything you need to know to make the perfect choice.
Chances are, though, that you're down here in the info to check on a few specific things you're unsure about. And we're pretty sure you'll find all the information you need.
There are five different types of mobile deal, some of which have variations on the same theme. A mobile contract with a handset, for example, may vary how much you pay up-front, which will alter the monthly cost. Let's take a quick overview, though, of the various types of deal available. Hopefully we can narrow things down a bit so you have a better idea of where to start.
Choosing a specific phone can be hard. To be fair, it's probably a lot easier if you're crazy about one particular brand. If you have to have an Apple or a Samsung obsession specifically, it narrows the field and simplifies things considerably.
But what if you're completely undecided? All those shiny, rectangular things look much the same as one another to a layperson. So how do you decide? We reckon you should start by considering some of these factors.
While there are a number of mostly budget brands that few of us have heard of as well as branded phones from the likes of EE and Vodafone out there, most of us will end up choosing one of the following brands. It's a good idea, then, for us to briefly explore what separates each from the rest, and list of few of the most popular, current models.
Everyone's heard of Apple. It's one of the largest companies in the world, thanks in most part to the iPhone. All iPhones run on the iOS operating system and all are a good choice, especially if you have other products made by Apple, such as an iMac, Macbook or Apple Watch, as they all integrate seamlessly. Older iPhones going as far back as the iPhone 6 are still very capable devices even now. Current iPhone models include the iPhone 12 and 13. Very pricy, but also very good.
The Korean tech giant's main aim has, for many years, been to outdo Apple. As such its handsets are very high quality, but also on the expensive side. A phone as old as a Galaxy S6 is still perfectly usable, while its Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus, Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus represent its latest, cutting edge offerings. Samsung is also in the midst of releasing the Samsung Galaxy Fold, a phone that folds out to the size of a tablet, but at the time of writing its release has been delayed due to problems with the folding screen.
This Chinese manufacturer (pronounced w-way, in case you were wondering), offers what you might term 'budget-premium' phones. That is to say, phones that can match Apple and Samsung for features and power, but that cost significantly less. Popular Huawei models include the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro, the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro and the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 X. Huawei is also planning to release its own.
Not quite as pricey as top-end Apple or Samsung phones, nevertheless Google's 'Pixel' handset range should still be considered high end. Renowned for their excellent cameras and software, Google's current top phones include the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL. Perhaps realising that not everyone can afford and £800 handset, Google is also set to release the Google Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL – budget versions of its flagship models with stripped-down features, selling for around half the price.
Offers near-premium quality phones for about half the price you'll pay for a similar phone from Apple or Samsung. It really is that simple. In the past, OnePlus has been somewhat mired in negative news coverage. Data leaks, issues with its handsets. But in 2019, the Chinese manufacturer is a very different company – one whose phones are worthy of your attention. Notable models include the excellent OnePlus 6T and the upcoming OnePlus 7.
A company that used to rule the mobile market, Nokia is somewhat less prestigious these days, offering mainly budget phones. Its flagship model, the Nokia 8 Sirocco can be had for around £550, and while that's still a lot of money, it pales next to the insane cost of a flagship Apple or Samsung phone. Popular Nokia models include the Nokia 8, the aforementioned Sirocco, the Nokia 7 Plus, Nokia 7.1 and Nokia 5.1.
LG produces some good phones, but it absolutely takes the cake when it comes to creating maximum confusion if you're in a mind to buy one. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy 8, followed by Galaxy 9 and Galaxy 10, where it's immediately apparent what the latest and greatest model is, LG produces phones such as the V30, Q6, K11, G7, G7 ThinQ, G7 Fit and so on. Absolutely impenetrable.
Very much at the budget end of the market, you're likely to find Motorola phones offered with the cheapest with-handset contract deals. They're decent phones, however, if not exactly bleeding edge. Popular models include the Moto G7 and Moto G6.
A real 'brand' this. Sony has always seemed to rely on the faithfulness of its existing 'fans' than it has innovated to draw new ones. If you're a Sony fan, you probably already have your eye on Sony's latest model. In reality, though, Sony exists mostly in the mid-range and does little to really stand out. Popular models include the Sony Xperia XZ3, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium, and the Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra.
10-12 years ago, Blackberry was a market leader on account of its main selling point: The little clicky keyboard beneath every screen that allowed you to easily tap out the odd email. Despite the fact that on-screen keyboards of most modern smartphones arguably do a better job, Blackberry has stuck to its guns. Blackberry phones are unique – quirky you might say – and as such quite niche. Popular models include the Blackberry Key2 and Blackberry KEYone.
Ultimately, it's probably going to come down to the deal (and/or phone) available and whether or not you get a good signal where you live, work or generally spend a lot of time. The main ways the four networks differentiate themselves beyond coverage is in the speed of their 4G data. Let's take a look at each.
EE claims the best 4G coverage. But there's not much in it, with all four providers claiming 99% or greater coverage by population. According to crowdsourced speed data from insight organisation Tutela, in January 2019 EE provided the fastest average data speeds of the four network providers with average 4G download speeds of around 27Mbps.
Vodafone claims 99% 4G coverage by population. Tutela measured its average 4G download speed as around 21Mbps.
Three claims 99% 4G coverage by population. Tutela measured an average 4G download speed as around 11Mbps, the slowest of the four.
O2 claims 99% 4G coverage by population. Tutela measured O2's average 4G download speed as around 16Mbps.
How long is a piece of string? It really depends on what you're looking for. If you know what handset you're after and/or how many minutes, texts and data you need, then finding the right deal is only a few clicks away using the tools on this page. But there is never a 'best' deal – only one that suits you the most at a price you can afford. Unfortunately, to find that you're going to have to do a little of the work yourself.
Interesting question. If you're truly after the cheapest out there irrespective of any other factor, you need only sort the results on this page by price. Of course, cheapest doesn't always mean best value for money, so it's a good idea to know how much you're willing to spend before you start browsing and comparing.
Yes. Most of the time. PAYG handsets are always at the budget end of the scale, so don't expect a great phone, unless you're willing to pay big bucks. However, most PAYG phones are perfectly serviceable so long as you don't absolutely need the shiny, deluxe experience of some of the top-end models.
Both offer only a SIM, which you will need to put into an existing phone you already own. Some PAYG deals will come with a phone, but you will have to pay for it. SIM only is better value generally, but you will need to pass a credit check as it usually involves a 12-month contract. PAYG will get you less minutes, texts and data for your money, but there are no credit checks and you can switch any time you like.
Depends on the specific deal. You will commonly find a portion of the price of the handset earmarked as an upfront cost, especially on deals involving the more expensive handsets. On SIM only deals there is usually no upfront cost – same with PAYG.
This is a hard question to answer. Many of us spend most of our time within range of a wifi router we have the password for, whether at work or at home. This means we only need a data allowance that covers the times when we're not, as your phone will automatically use wifi data where it is available. As a rule, then, most of us need less data than we think. 5GB is a good place to start. If you hit the limit in a month, you can always upgrade.
Yes, they really are. Refurbished handsets are ones that have been sent back to the manufacturer either to repair a fault or simply to be resold. The manufacturer will then refurbish them so they are literally as good as new. Most refurbished handsets will arrive as new, in a new box, even with the protective clear plastic we love peeling off. You will not be able to tell the difference between a refurb and a new phone in most cases, and you will often save a substantial amount of money.