How to get more for your calls

High street retailers may be experiencing a festive freeze this Christmas but there is no sign of consumers leaving the mobile phone industry on hold.

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According to a survey by Asda and the Centre of Economics and Business Research, households are aiming to spend a collective £278million less on Christmas presents this year compared to last. However, a survey by Halifax showed that mobiles phones remain the top gadget gift ahead of digital cameras, MP3 players and more.

With the mobile market so competitive many retailers are now offering additional incentives to attract custom including some impressive freebies.

What’s on offer?

Numerous mobile phone retailers are attaching free gifts to mobile phone contracts ranging from popular games consoles such as the Nintendo Wii to satellite navigation systems, laptops, LCD TVs and iPods.

Take for example two offers from Affordable Mobiles. The company is offering the Sony Ericsson W910i, an impressive walkman-style handset, for free with the Orange Dolphin 25 deal. This tariff includes 400 anytime minutes and unlimited texts for £24.47 a month. To make the deal even more appealing the company will also throw in an instant Nintendo Wii with no redemption procedure so it is received the day after order.

The same retailer is also offering an attractive deal for the Samsung U800 which boasts 3G technology, Bluetooth connectivity, a three megapixel camera and one gigabyte (GB) of internal memory. It is available with the Dolphin 30 deal which has 600 anytime minutes and unlimited texts for £29.36 a month with an instant Samsung 26” T260 HDTV. However, both packages require you to sign up to a 24-month contract.

It’s not just Affordable Mobiles that is pulling out the stops for Christmas. Retailer Mobiles Please offers the Samsung U900 Soul on a £30 a month T-Mobile 18-month contract with 600 minutes and unlimited texts plus a free Sony PS3 with the popular Call of Duty game. Or if you prefer you could pick up a free Nintendo DS on a £25 a month T-Mobile 18month deal with the Sony Ericsson W580i included along with 300 voice minutes and 300 texts a month.

Well known high street retailers are also throwing in freebies. Carphone Warehouse for example, is offering a Playstation 3 to customers who sign up for an 18-month contract on Orange’s Dolphin 35 tariff. It costs £35 a month and includes 600 minutes of calls and unlimited text messages.

Phones4U is throwing in a free laptop. This is available to people who sign up for a £40-a-month tariff with Vodafone. The deal includes 900 minutes of calls and 500 texts each month and the minimum contract length is 18-months.

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So what’s the catch?

All of these offers look like bargains on paper – but they will only prove to be good value if they reflect your mobile phone usage. Otherwise you’ll be tied into a mobile phone contract that you’ll be paying over the odds for and the savings on a games console or other item will quickly be wiped out.

Take for example the Nintendo Wii offer through Affordable Mobiles. The Nintendo Wii currently costs £179 through the cheapest retailer on our shopping channel. By contrast, the Orange Dolphin 25 deal would cost £587.28 over the length of the 24month contract.

Consequently you’ll quickly negate the advantage of picking up a freebie unless you are making full use of the minutes and texts on offer. Actual usage should always be the first consideration when shopping around for a mobile phone contract – you could be better off with a cheaper, more suitable contract and buying the console yourself.

So when shopping around for a mobile phone this Christmas don’t be drawn in by special offers alone. Remember the more minutes and texts that are included in your package equate to a higher monthly charge – although you should be careful not to underestimate your usage or you will be hit with high rates for exceeding your monthly allowance.

Also remember to consider all possible charges when using the phone. For example if you’re buying a phone for someone who likes to use the internet, look into the network’s download rates. Or if the recipient is likely to take the phone abroad consider the roaming charges – our international roaming guide should point you in the right direction.

Disclaimer: Please note that any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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