About iPhone deals
Firstly, consider your budget and how much you can pay upfront for your new iPhone, coupled with the ongoing monthly cost. Paying more at the outset will bring the monthly rate down, and vice versa. If value for money is your primary concern, the cheapest overall option is to buy an iPhone outright and sign up to a SIM-only deal.
If you’re an existing iPhone owner, or are planning on getting one for the first time, chances are that you’ll be using the internet a lot, so you could benefit from 4G. This fourth generation of mobile technology (superseding 3G) provides a far faster experience for those using internet on the move.
iPhone providers are increasingly generous with minutes and texts, so it’s data allowance that really sets them apart. Usage caps vary from 250MB to unlimited, so think about how much time you spend online and pick a plan to match. As an iPhone user, anything below 1GB is probably useless to you and, as a rule, it’s easier to upgrade to a larger cap if you’re using more data than your plan allows, but not so simple to downgrade if you’re paying for more than you need.
Choosing a contract iPhone
Due to the high cost of a new iPhone, for many people the best option is to spread that cost over a fixed-term contract – usually 24 months. Some providers, such as giffgaff, offer contracts of just six months, with flexible upfront payments.
Some providers offer contracts that allow customers to upgrade their iPhone at any time, providing its full value is settled. These contracts split your monthly bill into two parts: your phone payments (the cost of your handset) and your usage payments (minutes, texts, mobile internet data). You’ll find this type of contract with O2 and giffgaff, amongst others.
Paying off your contract and upgrading your phone will create a new 24-month contract for both your handset and usage plan. The exception is giffgaff, which only has 30-day usage plans which you can cancel at any time.
The downside to choosing a contract iPhone is that you are tied into a contract, your handset is likely to be locked to your chosen provider (unless you choose giffgaff), restricting your options for the duration of your contract, and, you will most likely end up paying more overall for your handset than if you had bought it outright.
Buying an iPhone outright with a SIM-only deal
Buying an iPhone outright usually means you will pay less overall, and you are not tied into a contract. By buying your iPhone upfront, you avoid the two biggest issues of getting it on a contract: paying interest and being tied into a contract. This usually means you pay less overall and you can sell it to upgrade whenever you want.
Buying an iPhone direct from the Apple Store – or from select mobile operators such as giffgaff and Three – will guarantee that it’s unlocked for use with any provider you choose.
Most of the mainstream providers offer SIM-only deals for iPhone – for the 5s, the 6, the 6s or 7. Depending on your budget, how much data you want, and whether you want a one-month or 12-month deal, there is something for everyone. O2, EE, giffgaff, iD, Three and Vodafone all offer SIM-only deals, with prices starting as little as £10 per month.
Most SIM-only deals come with huge amounts of inclusive texts and minutes (or even unlimited amounts). When it comes to data, the more you want, the more you will pay.
PAYG on iPhone
Pay-as-you-go is an alternative to SIM-only whereby you simply top-up your calls, texts and data by buying vouchers – usually available in denominations from £5 to £30. There is no monthly deduction from your bank account and you can top up as much or as little as you want at a time.
It’s worth bearing in mind that most Pay-as-you-go bundles only last for 30 days – you will lose anything that is unused after that.
Most providers offer iPhones with PAYG deals – including O2, Vodafone, EE and Three.
Frequently asked iPhone questions
What sizes are available?
Along with the variations in tariffs outlined above, when you purchase an iPhone 7 you'll have a choice of two sizes. The two models are the 4.7-inch display iPhone 7, and the 5.5-inch display iPhone 7 Plus.
The iPhone 7 Plus, while more expensive that the standard model, sports a larger battery, offering a substantially longer battery life than its still-respectable smaller brother. This means the new iPhones are better able to compete with Samsung's popular smartphone, the Galaxy S5.
How slim are the latest iPhone models?
The iPhone 7 measures slightly thicker than the iPhone 6 at 7.1mm front to back (the iPhone 6 is 6.9mm thick), with the iPhone 7 Plus being slightly thicker at 7.3mm. Both models feature more rounded edges than the 6 series, and feel and look smoother especially with the removal of the antenna lines and the headphone jack.
The introduction of the Taptic Engine to create touch feedback when using the new digitized home button and certain apps is probably largely responsible for the minute increase in width.
Why has Apple scrapped the headphone jack
With the increase in all things wireless, Apple argues that its new Lightning EarPods remove the clutter of wires but maintain audio quality. If you are doubtful, you can simply use an adaptor to use your existing headphones – it just means you can't charge the phone at the same time.
In place of the headphone jack, Apple has introduced stereo speakers, meaning an improved audio experience when not using headphones.
What operating system does the iPhone use?
The iPhone 7 comes pre-loaded with the iOS 10 (operating system 10), rather than the older iOS 8 system seen in the iPhone 6, and the now defunct iPhone iOS 6. Not only does this mean you'll be able to use all the latest apps and games, it also means you can use Apple's latest features, such as Apple Pay, AirPlay and AirPrint.
Can I use my iPhone to buy things?
Contactless payment takes the hassle out of shopping, and thanks to partnerships with Visa, MasterCard and American Express, you can make contactless payments with the iPhone 7.
This works via an NFC chip (Near Field Communication Device) inside the phone that lets you make purchases at contactless payment sites directly through your iPhone. It’s similar to the contactless chips in some debit and credit cards, working in much the same way.
On which networks is iPhone 7 available?
Currently, the iPhone 6 is available through Three, EE, O2, Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and giffgaff; along with the Apple stores on the high street. The iPhone 6’s features work best on the new, high-speed mobile network, so it pays to be on a network which has good 4G coverage.
Are all iPhones 4G compatible?
Yes. If your chosen network offers 4G, you’ll be able to use it with your iPhone. Uncertainty about this is understandable, as some iPhone 5 models were incompatible with certain 4G networks.
O2 and Vodafone customers found that their iPhone 5 wouldn’t work on 4G due to an incompatibility between the frequency used by both providers and the receiver inside the iPhone 5. No such worries with the iPhone 6.
What kind of deal should I look for?
When it’s time to get your hands on the iPhone 7, you’ll want a contract or SIM-only deal with a focus on high data allowances.
A recent report by Arieso found that, on average, iPhone users consume more downloaded data than other smartphone users, and that iPhone 5s users are downloading around 20 per cent more data than those still using the original iPhone 5 model.
All this means is that you’ll need a contract or SIM with a high data allowance, preferably 4G.