How to choose the best mobile deal

We may not want to admit it, but most of us would be lost without our mobile phones – in fact, 86% of UK adults now own at least one. However, while we may love our phones few of us love our phone bills which are often much more costly than they need to be.

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Whether it’s paying for minutes or texts we don’t use; being charged extra because we’ve exceeded our monthly quota; or constantly topping up a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) phone; thousands of us are paying over the odds each month because we’re on a tariff that doesn’t reflect the way we use our phones.

We look at ways to identify the right deal for you, as well as the best offers on the market.

How to choose the right tariff

According to Ofcom, the industry regulator, Brits send an average of 68 texts a month and make 247 minutes of voice calls. If your usage is significantly below this then you’re probably best on a PAYG deal that allows you to top-up the phone by buying call time as and when you need it. Even though the cost of calls is generally higher than on a contract, you should save money because you have more control over the amount you spend and you can end the service at any time.

Signing a contract means committing to a deal, typically for 12 or more months. Generally, deals are available with a choice of price packages – you’ll pay more to get a higher number of texts and voice minutes attached to the deal each month, or you may pay extra for roaming services or to make a set number of downloads from your phone. If you exceed these limits however, your monthly phone bill could be unexpectedly high.

With contract deals you may also be able to pick up a free handset. Many providers offer free handsets in an attempt to attract your custom.

So the first step in finding the best deal is to learn a little about your habits as a mobile phone user. For example do you text or call people a lot; do you use the internet regularly; and do you take your phone abroad? If you’re not sure about how you use the phone then look at some old bills. Also consider whether you want one of the hottest new handsets or whether you’re happy to stick with your existing model.

What deals are available?

As mentioned there’s no single mobile phone deal that is right for everyone – it’s all about picking a tariff that’s right for you. Here are some of the leading options for different types of users:

Light phone users: If you only use your phone occasionally you would normally be best off with a PAYG deal. The Orange Dolphin tariff, Vodafone Simply tariff and Virgin Pay as you Go tariffs all offer 50 call minutes or 100 texts for £10 a month with both the Orange and Virgin deals offering 300 free texts.

However, with demand for low cost plans increasing, Orange has introduced a series of monthly tariffs that may offer better value for many light users. For £5 a month, its customers can enjoy 50 texts and 50 minutes a month and pick up a free Nokia 2630. Alternatively, for £10 a month they will receive 100 free minutes and 300 texts along with a Nokia 3600 handset. However, these tariffs are only available on a 36 month contract – a big commitment if you're a light user.

Average phone users: By shopping around for the right deal, average phone users should easily be able to cover their calls and texts without worrying about exceeding their monthly allowance.

For example, Virgin offers an 18month deal with 400 voice minutes and unlimited texts for just £20 a month. Alternatively, the 3 Mix & Match 900 has 900 minutes or texts a month for £24 a month on an 18month contract.

Heavy phone users: If you can’t put your phone down then you may want to consider paying a little extra for a monthly contract to avoid being penalised for exceeding your allowance.

Those who like to talk may want to consider the Orange Dolphin 40 tariff with 900 voice minutes and unlimited texts a month for £34.25. However, if you send a lot of texts but don’t make as many calls, you may be able to slash these costs – Vodafone offers unlimited texts with 600 voice minutes for just £25 a month.

Is there anything else to consider?

If you’re planning to take your mobile phone away on holiday with you this summer then Vodafone has recently dropped its roaming charges. Since the start of June, Vodafone’s “Passport” customers will be able to talk, text and send pictures to friends from over 35 countries for the same price they would pay at home.

Orange has also annouced that from July 1st, it is slashing the cost of sending a text within Europe by 60% to 10.8p per text.

What if you want a hot handset?

Though many tariffs offer handsets as part of their package, you have to pay a little extra if you want to look the part with a ‘must have’ phone such as a Blackberry 8900 Curve or iPhone 8GB.

The iPhone 8GB is only available with an O2 tariff. Deals start at £29.38 a month (plus the £96.89 cost of the phone) with 75 call minutes and 125 texts included a month and range up to £73.41 a month (with the handset free) which includes 3,000 voice minutes and 500 texts a month.

The Blackberry 8900 Curve meanwhile is available from as little as £15 a month with 100 minutes and 3,000 texts on the Orange Dolphin 15 deal. However, handset costs vary widely depending on which retailer you use – Mobiles Please for example, offers the Curve for just £76.02 with £17.50 worth of Interflora flowers also available as part of a promotional offer.

To compare the tariffs available with the latest handsets use our mobile phone comparison tool.

Disclaimer: Please note that any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Products underlined can be applied for directly.

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