There are over a million combinations of phones, retailers, contracts, and tariffs, so it's not surprising if you feel like just sticking with what you have and taking what your network offers.

But this is important: Be willing to switch networks to get a better deal.

Research by Yougov has shown that 93% of Brits are lazy or reluctant to leave their networks when it's time to get a new deal. If you're one of them, maybe you expect switching to be difficult.

It's easy. It takes literally 3 minutes to move your number over to a new network.

Below, our mobile deal experts have put together clear steps and tips so that you can:

  • Spend less money
  • Save time
  • Clear up confusion
  • Get a newer, better phone
  • Get a better contract


You can:
- Read through step by step
- Use the menu on the right to get advice on something specific
- Look at the 'Notes' in each section for more useful tips.

When you're done, you won't pay more and settle for less on your next phone deal.

You're on your way to becoming a mobile phone deal ninja!



Step 1: Your Budget

Ask yourself these two questions

How much up front?

How much per month?

Our Tip: The average mobile phone bill is £36 per month, but you can get very good deals for £20 to £30 per month.

notes

click on notes to see aditional information
  • Sleek new smartphones are expensive. But boy are they tempting..
  • You can either give your bank account a big slap up front, or spread the cost over a contract.

Step 2: Your Phone

Ask yourself these questions

Do I want a new phone?

Yes!

That's great, now lets determine which one.

or

Nope, I like mine.

Want to keep using your faithful old handset?
Get a SIM-only deal in step 6.

Do I want a smartphone?

Yes!

A huge leap over a regular phone, smartphones are sexy mini computers, offering you Web browsing, email, social media, GPS, multimedia, thousands of apps, and intuitive interfaces on large touchscreens. Having more computing power in your palm than all of NASA circa 1969 can't be a bad thing.

or

No, I want something simpler.

Think carefully about whether you really want to pass on all the brilliant smartphone capabilities. If you're sure you want a dumbphone (that's the technical term, no offense intended), you'll be able to get very cheap deals.

Which type of smartphone?

Which operating system do you prefer? The OS determines much of your phone's personality and abilities. Your main options are: Android, iOS (iPhone), Windows Phone, and Blackberry. Compare them with our giant Smartphone OS Chart.

Good ways to choose a phone:

See what's new

Want something that's fresh from the factory?
See the latest phones.

Search by features

What's important to you? The main options are: screen size, processor power for speed and gaming, camera quality, front camera for video calls, storage capacity, physical keyboard, HD video recording, battery life, design, weight and size. Phonearena lets you easily search by phone specs.

Try them out

Get advice from friends, and ask to try their phones. Pop into a store to get a feel for what what you like, but don't get pushed into buying before you're ready.

See the best

Make it easier by narrowing your search to the best phones because hey, you deserve the best.
See the top rated phones, the best smartphones, or the best budget smartphones.

Compare them

Browse through and see what stands out. Our phone search lets you see quick summaries and search by rating, newness, brand, OS, and colour.
Geekaphone lets you easily compare handsets.

Our Tip: Choose the smartphone OS that is best for you, and get the top handset you can afford.

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • Only 57% of buyers are satisfied with the choice of handsets on their network. See all the handsets on the market with our phone search.

Step 3: Your Usage

Ask yourself these questions

How many minutes of calls do you need?

How many texts do you need?

How much internet data do you need?

Our Tip: Check old bills to get an idea how many minutes, texts and data you need per month

Our Tip: Most casual users will find 500MB/month to be enough. When your phone is connected to Wi-Fi (e.g. at home) you won't use your data allowance

Our Tip: 3's The One Plan is good for people who want a plan that will meet almost everyone's needs, saving you the hassle of working out your usage. A safe retreat from the intimidating prospect of math.

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • Many people are on tariffs that don't fit their needs. It's comforting to know that others are overspending too.
  • Examples of Daily Data Use
    Video1 minute/day2 minutes/day
    ++
    Web50 webpages/day100 webpages/day
    oror
    45 mins browsing1.5 hours browsing
    ++
    Email150/day300/day
    Total500MB per month1GB per month
  • Data calculator from AT&T.
  • iPhone and Android users can get Onavo, a free app that reduces the amount of data you use.

Step 4: Length of Contract

There are several different contract lengths:

12 to 24 months

None (Pay As You Go)

1 month rolling

Existing SIM

Our Tip: If you get a spiffy market-leading phone, it should last you some time, so a longer contract is fine.

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • 12 month contracts disappeared for a while, but are now back thanks to new regulations.
  • 18 month contracts are the sweet spot between cost and flexibility.
  • 24 month contracts will give you the cheapest handset and monthly cost.

Step 5: Choose a Network

Ask yourself this question

Am I ok with a new network?

Yes, a new network will do.

If you're not in your minimum contract period, youre free to switch away for a better deal

or

No, I want to stay on my network.

If you're still in your minimum contract period, you won't be able to switch without paying a penalty

Advice on switching:

People who switched networks saved approximately £80/year (Uswitch).

Over 40% (18 million) of mobile phone owners have never switched networks and will have missed out on better deals. Many feared switching would be complicated or that they might lose their number. (Ofcom)

To switch just call your network to request a 'PAC Code', and pass it to the new network. Your phone number will be transferred and your old contract ended automatically. It's liberating - like trying a new haircut, but without the fear of ridicule.

Our Tip: Switching networks is easy, so be open to better deals from other networks, remembering to check coverage.

Our Tip: If you want superfast internet access, Everything Everywhere (Orange & T-Mobile's joint network) will be offering superfast 4G services a year earlier than other networks.

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • A Which? survey showed 90% who switched networks found it easy.
  • Network Coverage Checkers
    Vodafone (Talkmobile uses the same network)
    O2 (Tesco Mobile and GiffGaff use the same network)
    T-Mobile (Virgin Mobile uses the same network)
    Orange (T-Mobile and Orange users can access both networks)
    Three
    Asda Mobile
    If you want to be certain, the best ways to test are to get a free PAYG SIM card to try out, ask someone who lives in your area, or ask a friend on that network if you can try their phone.
  • Orange and Vodafone have a cool way of boosting your phone signal at home via your Wi-Fi:
    Orange Signal Boost - Vodafone Sure Signal
  • Also ask friends and neighbours about coverage.
  • Network Ratings
    SatisfiedNeutralDissatisfied
    T-Mobile72%19%9%
    O272%18%11%
    Orange70%18%12%
    Virgin69%18%13%
    Vodafone69%18%14%
    Three63%26%11%
  • Tesco Mobile is a small operator but has received very good reviews and has some good value deals
    Three often have the cheapest deals, but have less coverage (especially outside cities) and poorer customer service.

Step 6: Compare and find the best deals

Action: Compare the best deals from across the UK

Now that you know what you want, use our fantastically flexible search filters to find it. We compare deals from all networks and retailers, major and independent, and give you the unbiased results so you always find the best deal.

Contract Deals

Get the cheapest contracts
The popular choice for expensive smartphones.Contracts are also best if you use your phone regularly. You pay less for handsets and get better tariffs.

There are lots of contract deals that come with free gifts and cashback redemption. See more info about these below.

SIM-only Deals

Getting a SIM card on it's own can be cheaper if you already have a phone, or don’t mind paying for a new handset outright. You may have to unlock your old phone (see the table in Step 7).

Contract SIM

Get the cheapest SIM-only contracts

Pay As You Go SIM

Get the cheapest PAYG SIM deals

Little known GiffGaff, has great value SIM-only deals, and inclusive bundles with unlimited data.

Pay As You Go Deals


Get the cheapest PAYG deals
There's no credit check, you have more flexibility, and it's easy to track your spending.PAYG is also good if you have low usage - say 50 minutes and texts per month.

PAYG tariffs are now offering inclusive 'bundles', similar to contracts (thanks for adding to the confusion guys), i.e. O2 Text and Web offers 300 texts, 500MB data when topping up £10/month.

On the downside, you can run out of credit, and the tariffs are usually not as good. You also get a smaller choice of handsets and pay more for them.

SIM-free (handset only)

Buying the handset direct gives you freedom, but it's the most expensive option up front. A device packing that much fiendish gadgetry doesn't come cheap.

Compare SIM-free deals
Buy iPhones direct from Apple

Order and you're done!

Action: Make a note of the deal you want, so you can find it later.

Our Tip: Filters are your friends! Use them to easily narrow down millions of deals and find the one you want.

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • Buy online to save time and money, and for peace of mind
    • Cheaper - Physical (high street) stores have high costs, and this means pricier deals. Online stores have cheaper deals, plus being online you can easily compare the deals from many retailers. You have the power.. and somehow.. you've always known it.
    • Most people are losing out - Ofcom stats show that even now less than 10% of buyers get their phone deals from online retailers. Now you are part of that elite 10%.
    • Faster - Save yourself loads of time by comparing deals from dozens of stores from the comfort of home, without crowds or a sales assistant pressuring you.
    • Safer - When buying online, UK regulations give you a 7 working day period from the order date in which you can change your mind. You don't get this on the high street.
  • Cashback Advice
    Many retailers offer deals with cashback or 'cashback via redemption'. With these deals, you pay your network bills as normal, but also have a cashback agreement with the retailer.
    If you claim the cashback correctly, you will get cash paid to you, reducing the cost of your contract. That's why these are the usually the cheapest deals available.
    "The catch is that you have to mail some of your phone bills to the retailer several times during the contract period. If you miss a claim or do it incorrectly, you lose your cashback, so it's important to read the terms carefully.
    In effect, you are getting the possibility of cash, in return for extra hassle.
    It's good practice to think of cashback as a bonus that you may not get, and make sure you like the deal even without it."
    If you prefer not to have cashback or are allergic to small print, you can tick the 'No redemption' filter on the MyPhoneDeals search.
  • Here is an example of cashback terms.
  • Auto cashback
    There are also deals available with 'Auto cashback'. The amounts offered tend to be much lower, but you get your cash without having to jump through hoops.
  • Free Gifts
    Many contract deals also include luverly free gifts such as a free laptop or free Android tablet. In most cases you receive these without having to redeem anything, but do check the terms. The idea of an extra TV that you know can be accommodated on the bathroom sink is tempting, but make sure that the deal still makes sense without the gift.
  • Recommended Retailers
    Buymobilephones - Mobiles.co.uk - Phones4U
    We recommend the retailers above for the best mix of cheap deals and decent service - tough to find in this cynical world, to be sure. The networks' own sites usually don't have the best deals.
  • Cashback Sites
    Sites such as Topcashback can offer a different type of cashback. It involves signing up to the site, clearing your browser cookies, and purchasing your deal through their links. When the transaction is verified, you get paid cashback a couple of months down the line, though the cashback is not guaranteed to track.

Step 7: Ask your network for offers

Ask yourself these questions

Do you have an existing contract?

Yes.

or

Am I in the minimum contract period?

No, I'm free to leave.

or

Yes.

If you are close to the final month, you may be able to upgrade. Otherwise you'll probably have to wait - but it's worth calling your network to ask.

Action: Call your network, ask for a better deal.

Our Tip: Be friendly. It's not personal, just a matter of seeing where you will get the best deal.

Can they offer a better deal?

Yes! Great!

Be strong.. don't get Jedi salestalked into a phone or contract that's different from what you want. Also be aware that this probably means you will be put onto a new contract.

or

No they can't.

Say you want to stay but since they can't offer something better, ask to leave. You'll be put through to the disconnections or customer retention department. Ask them again for a better deal.

If they can't improve on the deal, request your PAC code if you want to switch networks.

If you're not sure about cancelling, feel free to say that you need to think about it, and back out with grace and dignity, as befits you.

Go to step 8 and get the deal you want.

Action: If you don't mind staying with this network, sign up for the deal. Done!

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • Unlocking Your Old Phone
    If you're keeping your old phone and want to switch networks, you may need to speak to your existing network to unlock your phone.
  • Unlocking details for each network
    Type of dealFeeContact number
    O2 Pay Monthly Free0870 2410 202 (202 from an O2 phone)
    O2 PAYG£150870 567 8675 (4445 from an O2 phone)
    Vodafone Pay Monthly£150870 070 0191 (191 from a Vodafone phone)
    Vodafone PAYG£200870 077 6655 (191 from a Vodafone phone)
    Orange Pay Monthly£2007973 100150 (150 from an Orange phone)
    Orange PAYG£2007973 100450 (450 from an Orange phone)
    T-Mobile£150845 412 5000
    Three£150843 373 3333 (333 from a 3 phone)
    Virgin£150845 6000 789 (789 from a Virgin phone)
    Tesco£200845 301 4455 (4455 from a Tesco phone)

Step 8: Get your new deal

Finishing things up!

Action: Complete your order online

Most online retailers offer free 24 hour delivery if the phone is in stock.

You are buying from a retailer's website (e.g. Buymobilephones, Carphone Warehouse), but your contract is with the network, as always.

Action: Transfer your number

Call your old network to request your PAC code (it's 9 digits) and give it to your new network. Your phone number should be transferred within 1 working day.

Your old contract will be automatically cancelled, and you will receive a final bill from your old network. They should also refund any overpayment (e.g. if you have paid for the month but cancelled before the end)

Our Tip: Give yourself about 15 minutes to place your order online. Lock the door and take the phone off the hook. Especially if you're at work. You'll need bank details and address history to hand, and probably a credit or debit card.

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • Ofcom (the communications regulator) states that networks have to give you your PAC over the phone or within 2 hours.

Step 9: Enjoy your new phone and/or deal!

Action: If you chose a cashback redemption deal, set up reminders

We recommend using Google Calendar or your new phone's calendar.

When mailing documents to claim cashback, use recorded mail.

Action: Sell your old phone if you want some extra cash

It's easy to sell your phone to a 'phone buying' site like Money4mymobile, though you may not get the maximum amount possible.

Ebay will usually get you more, if you think it's worth the hassle.

Our Tip: Go to bed early. Einstein showed that time moves faster when you are not moving, so you'll have less time to wait before receiving your shiny new phone deal.

Action: Like the guide? Use the buttons on the right to share it!

notes

click on notes to see additional information
  • Remember that with cashback deals, you have your contract with the network as usual, but also an extra cashback arrangement with the retailer.
  • You will usually receive your phone within a day or two, with a 7 working day cooling off period from your order date in which you can return your handset and cancel your contract, no questions asked.



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