Why choose a pay monthly mobile deal?
In our opinion, a pay monthly deal that comes with a handset of your choice is simply the best way to buy that handset. It covers both bases – the handset itself without forking out a fortune, and an allowance of minutes, data and texts on your chosen network. Let's take a look at the advantages.
- Handset affordability – The hire-purchase arrangement you get with a handset deal, while requiring a thorough credit check, makes just about any handset affordable. Buying outright on many of the top-end phones is a financial punch likely to leave lasting bruises for many
- Upgrades – With two-year contracts on most phones, by the time you reach the end of your contract you'll own your existing phone, and be able to upgrade to the latest one for what seems like nothing, since you will likely carry on paying the same amount each month
- Better value data – When you essentially bundle your phone and SIM into one package, you're going to get better value than you would if you went SIM only, generally speaking. Providers want you onboard the expensive handset train and so are often more generous with your allowances on pay monthly handset deals
- Extra benefits – Some providers offer additional benefits on handset deals, but not on SIM only deals. This might be unlimited data on Three, say, if you buy the latest iPhone or Samsung flagship phone, or additional data, or some sort of free gift included to sweeten the deal
- Second-hand value – When you get to the end of your contract, depending on the phone you choose, upgrading will leave you with your previous phone owned outright. If it's a sought-after brand such as Apple or Samsung, it's still going to be worth a decent chunk of money should you choose to sell it. Or you can hand it down to a friend or family member of course
What is a pay monthly mobile deal?
Unlike a broadband deal or energy deal, a pay monthly mobile contract is a formal credit agreement, where your provider extends you an amount of credit covering the cost of the handset. You will pay this off over the course of the contract in monthly instalment, with your allowances in minutes, texts and data combined with that monthly payment. This is why all pay-monthly handset deals come with compulsory credit checks, just as they would a loan or consumer credit agreement.
There are two types of pay monthly mobile deals.
- Pay monthly with a handset – Very useful for breaking down the frankly insane cost of one of the latest smartphones into manageable chunks
- Pay monthly SIM only deal – Ideal for people who are happy with their handset and want to pay less each month
What other types of mobile deal are there?
Before you go rocketing ahead, it's worth knowing there are a whole bunch of other types of mobile deals beyond the classic pay monthly with handset type we focus on here. Taking a look at what else is out there before making a final decision could be well worth your while. The most important thing is that you find the type of deal that's right for you.
- 30-day SIM – Did you know you can get a SIM only 'contract' that only lasts 30 days? These are great if you only need a SIM to fill in for a short time and need more long-term flexibility. The catch is you generally pay a higher price for a 30-day SIM than what you’d pay for the same monthly services on a 12 or 24 month contract deal
- PAYG SIM – If you hardly use your phone for making calls and you use most or all of your data only over Wi-Fi, a PAYG (pay as you go) SIM might make good sense. Pay as you go SIMs allow you to top up an amount to a sort of piggy bank, and only use what's in the piggy bank when you call out, text, or download something
- Data SIM only – If you've got a tablet or other device that has a SIM slot, you can get data-only SIMs from most mobile service providers. These will allow you to access the internet on those devices when you're out and about, although naturally they will not allow you to make any calls
- Contract 4G and 5G tablets – If you want to stay connected on a mobile device but don’t need to make calls or only make internet or Wi-Fi calls, a 4G or 5G ready tablet with SIM could be a good option. 4G and increasingly 5G ready tablets are available from many providers across the UK. These work exactly the same as contract phone deals in the sense that you pay off the value of the tablet over the lifetime of the contract
- Buying a new handset outright – Yes, unsurprisingly, if you've got the money just lying about you can buy any handset on its own without a contract, and then put your own SIM in it. You may even get it cheaper this way, but of course coming up with £1,000 or more for the latest, greatest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy isn't as easy as paying fifty quid a month for a couple of years. Not for most people, anyhow
- Buying a refurbished phone outright – Refurbished phones are faulty phones or second hand phones that have been sent back to the factory, completely overhauled and repackaged like new. They are every bit as good as the same new phone and often come with the same or similar warranties. And you can save yourself a fair chunk of change by buying one
Things to consider when choosing a new mobile phone
There are a vast array of handsets out there from a wide variety of manufacturers. If you're a total mobile phone newbie, it can be rather dazzling. So where's the best place to start? Consider the following factors.
- Operating system – There are only two, really. Android and iOS. Android for nearly every phone except those made by Apple, iOS for Apple phones. Generally speaking, iOS is easier to use, but Android is more flexible. A few smaller operating systems do exist, like Windows OS, Harmony OS by Huawei, etc., but the market is dominated by Android and iOS
- Price – How much are you willing to pay? Few truly consider the negative impact an expensive contract phone can have on your working capital. Take a moment to think about it before diving in for the biggest and best thing out there
- Screen size – There is a wide range of screen sizes available. The bigger the screen the more you can generally do with it and the easier those things are to do. However, the larger the phone the more cumbersome it is going to be to carry around with you. Pockets are only so big
- Screen quality and resolution – If you like eye-candy, there are some incredibly bright and eye-popping screens out there. iPhone X and its variants, and Samsung Galaxy and its variants are of particular note here. But again, think about what you actually need and what features you will actually use
- Camera quality – How often do you use your phone for photos? If it's only once in a while for a group shot of the kids, don't worry about it. Any phone with a camera will suffice, especially if you’re not interested in high resolution images. If you're an Instagram snap-artist, though? Think about getting a phone with a good camera
- Processor – This matters less than it used to. Most modern smartphones have enough under the hood to do what is required, with flagship phones arguably going far beyond that
- Battery life – Anything less than ten hours and you should steer clear. Enough charge to last a whole day is vital to most people
- Storage – Again, this matters less than it once did. 32GB should be considered the absolute minimum, as phone manufacturers are always increasing internal storage. Ideally your new phone should have at least 64GB of storage, if not more
- Available providers – Not all phones are available from all mobile service providers. If you have your heart set on a particular handset, then, you may find that the list of providers available to you narrows
Which providers offer pay monthly mobile deals?
Not all providers offer handsets. Some providers offer SIM-only monthly or rolling 30-day deals, as pay as you go is becoming a thing of the past. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of providers to choose from.
One aspect you should definitely make yourself aware of is that there are only four actual mobile networks in the UK, despite many more providers. They are Three, O2, Vodafone and EE. Other providers lease network capacity (often referred to as piggybacking) from one of those four providers.
- ASDA Mobile – ASDA Mobile offers a decent range of handsets from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Doro, Nokia, TCL, CAT, Doro, Hammer, and Xiaomi, as well as pay as you go SIMs, and pay as you go rolling bundles. ASDA Mobile operates on the EE network
- BT Mobile – Offers a plethora of SIMs but at the time of writing, only offers contract handsets from Apple and Samsung. BT Mobile is on the EE network. BT owns EE, so that sort of makes sense
- EE – As one of the four main network providers, EE has just about everything you could possibly think of. Handsets from Apple, Samsung, Google, Oppo, Sony, Motorola and Microsoft, and a wealth of SIM only and PAYG SIMs. EE operates on its own network, naturally
- giffgaff – Has a unique approach to customer service, offloading it onto its own customers, or community. Amazingly, this works incredibly well, with giffgaff customers among the happiest in the business. As well as SIM only, giffgaff offers handsets from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, Nokia, Alcatel, Doro, Google and Oppo. It operates on the O2 network
- iD Mobile – Started out as an in-house mobile operator for Carphone Warehouse, and now operates as a stand-alone provider. It has a lot of handsets from Apple, Samsung, Alcatel, Google, Doro, Honor, Motorola, and Oppo. iD Mobile operates on the Three network
- O2 – Is one of the UK's four network providers, and as such has everything you could possibly want. Phones from Apple, Samsung, Doro, Google, Motorola, Nokia, OnePlus, Oppo, and Sony, as well as SIM-only, data-only, you name it. O2 operates on its own network
- Tesco Mobile – Of supermarket fame, has everything you need from SIM only to handset deals including Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, Alcatel, IMO, Oppo, and Xiaomi. Tesco Mobile is on the O2 network
- Three – Is another of the UK's four network providers. It offers contract handsets from Apple, Samsung, Google, Nokia, Oppo, OnePlus, Samsung, TCL and Xiaomi. It's also notable as the only network to currently offer unlimited data deals with no conditions, though they do cost more. Three operates on its own network
- Sky Mobile – Offers SIMs and phones from Apple, Samsung, Doro, Fairphone, Nokia, Oppo, and SPACETALK. We don't currently believe Sky offers particularly great value for money. However, this situation is improved via double data when you are a Sky broadband and/or TV customer. Sky Mobile operates on the O2 network
- Virgin Mobile – Is older than Virgin Media would you believe? It offers phones from Apple, Samsung, Sony, Xiaomi, Oppo, Fairphone, and Vivo as well as SIM-only deals. Virgin Mobile operates on the EE network
- Vodafone – Is one of the UK's four mobile network providers. It offers contract phones from Apple, Samsung, Google, Sony, Xiaomi, Motorola, Huawei, Oppo, Nokia, Alcatel, Doro, and Mobiwire, as well as SIM only and whatever else you can think of. It operates on its own network