Finding a cheap mobile phone deal
Claiming cashback for a mobile with a contract that suits you is the cheapest way to buy a mobile phone. Calculate how much you will use your mobile phone, and buy the cheapest handset available with a suitable number of minutes. It is possible to switch handsets and providers every year or when the contract runs out - though you will need to change to a new network to keep your number.
Cashback mobile phone price comparison
To claim cashback, you may need to send several phone bills (by mail or electronically) to your retailer. Calculate and consider the cost of accidentally missing one of your cashback claims.
Mobile phone contract comparisons
Auto cashback mobile price comparisonSome retailers offer a single cashback payment (auto-cashback), rather requiring multiple cashback claims. Single payments are simpler to claim for, with a lower likelihood of missing payments, but tend to not offer as much cashback.
Contract mobile phone price comparison sites
A number of sites feature contract mobile phone comparisons with cost after cashback, best first:
Kelkoo UK includes a contract mobile phones category.Price Comparison page.
Tesco Mobile - pay as you go phone calls from 3p per minute
Tescomobile.com offer well-priced pay-as-you go deals. For £15 you receive between 250 and 500 minutes over two months (3-6p per min). When you top-up £15, you receive £30 "free credit" in the first month, with the £15 top-up available after this has expired or been used up. This total of £45 buys you up to 450 minutes of talk time to your 5 favourite numbers, or 225 minutes to other UK mobiles or landlines. Pay by direct debit, and you receive a 10% discount, so £45 of credit only costs £13.50, for a cost of between 3p and 6p per minute, depending on how many calls you make you your favourite numbers. Use clubcard points to buy minutes and the cost can decrease further. Buy the Tesco mobile SIM on Tesco direct..
Does your phone have enough minutes for you?
If you already use a mobile, you'll know how much you use, and when you use it. If you don't then ask your friends how much they use theirs. The cheapest tariffs offer free weekend and evening calls only to phones on the same network or landlines. Cross network ("X network") tariffs offer inclusive calls to other networks, and are becoming increasingly affordable. It can be cheaper and more convenient than owning a pay-as-you-go phone.
Compare prices of tariffs that match your usageOnce you have calculated how much you will use your mobile, use the sites above to compare prices. When comparing deals on a variety of sites, it is convenient to mentally convert offers such as "10 months half price" to "5 months free". Similarly, if the monthly rental is £30, then "£120 cashback" equates to "4 months free".
You may want to create a spreadsheet to calculate the price, the model, the tariff, the contract duration and note on which site you found it.
Focus on claiming your cashback (or chose auto-cashback)
One in three people don't claim all of their cashback and one in ten people don't claim any of their cashback. Make sure you claim all of yours.
To take advantage of another cashback offer you may want to switch providers when your contract (generally a year or 18 months) is up. Many mobile phone retailers only deliver to the cardholder's address. Check the retailer's policy on delivery location and times before you buy.
To simplify claiming cashback, you may want to chose a deal with a single cashback payment (auto-cashback).
Cancel any "Free insurance"
Unless your handset is very expensive, you might want to cancel any "free for 3 months" insurance bundles with the phone. If you tend to lose phones, you may want to consider taking out mobile phone insurance - Moneysavingexpert has a mobile phone insurance page.
Cashback code of practice
The code of practice for the mobile industry (Ofcom pdf - Sales Incentives) states that terms should not be unduly restrictive, and that consumers should have at least 60 days in which to submit claims and copies of statements should be acceptable, making it easier to claim cashback.
Mobile phone retailersSome major retailers offer price-matching deals: Carphone Warehouse and Dial-a-Phone. Phones4u.co.uk doesn't offer price match. For more providers, see the dmoz.org's UK Consumer Wireless category .
Not buying online
Not buying online has its advantages too. You can have your phone in your hands when you leave the store and you don't have to be around when they deliver the phone (either to work or to your home). You may be able to find equally good deals on the high street, especially if you aren't relying on claiming cashback, especially if you simply go for discounted line rental.
Taking your number with you.
For most deals you will need to move to another network. Some deals state that you old number must be from another network (they wish to encourage new subscribers). Read the website's small print on taking your current number with you. You may need to chat to your network beforehand to retrieve your PAC number.
Some networks (e.g. Vodafone) don't allow porting of existing numbers to their network except if you buy directly through them. Be wary when trying to port an existing number to them.
The upsides of switching
You may end up with a better phone, with more minutes and better battery life for less money.
The downsides of switching
You may spend some time finding a cheaper phone, and seeing if it is suitable. You will want to copy the numbers from your old phone to your new phone. If your phones won't talk via infra-red or both sync via your computer, this may take some time.
How to negotiate with your existing provider
You may not need a new provider and mobile phone, but knowing how much other networks are charging should make negotiating a deal with your network provider easier. Be aware that your network provider may contact you to try and persuade you to stay if you ask for your PAC number - the code that allows you to move your existing phone to another provider. You will avoid the chore of having to move your phone numbers from one phone to another.
The main networks
Currently I think that the coverage and service of UK networks is much of a much-ness (apart from 3, which has poor, but improving network coverage). In approximate price order (lowest first), the competitors are:
If you have a phone, you may want to investigate the price of sim-only deals offered by your current provider.
Other network providers
Other network providers are 'Virtual' in that they use the networks of the major providers, providing good service with different price plans.
Reuse your old phone as a pay as you go phone
If your current phone is better than the new phone, you may be able to use it in place of your new handset. You may be able to simply buy a sim-card for it. See the sites above offering sim-only deals.
T-Mobile moved to charging only 12p per min to all UK mobiles in April 2006, a very competitive price.
Competition in the pay as go arena has hotted up recently, with several entrants to the market, that use transmitters of established companies (so should have good coverage).
Pay As You Go mobile comparisons (prepay phones)
Lowerthan.co.uk's Pay as you go (prepay) comparison allows comparison of handsets and specific network sim cards.
Lowerthan.co.uk's Sim Free comparison allows you to compare prices of mobiles you can use on any network.
Kelkoo UK has apay as you go (prepay) mobile phone category. Chose the handset you want and find the cheapest network to buy it on.
Prepay (pay-as-you-go) mobile phone category, to search for a specific phone model.
Simfree (sim free) or handset only mobile phones - for phones that are not locked to a specific network.
When using Kelkoo, always remember to reorder by total cost.
Note that the most up-to-date mobile phones with the latest features can be expensive when bought on pay as you go, and may be cheaper when bought as contract phones. Prepay phones are often useful for young people not able to sign up to a contract as a they are under 18 years old.
12 month or 18 month contract or pay as you go?
12 month contracts have been the norm for some time now. 18 month contracts tie the user in for longer and sometimes offer better discounts, suiting users who don't want to switch as often. They offer a longer discounted period before the regular monthly tariff kicks in. When the discounted period ends, you may be able to talk to your provider and negotiate the monthly tariff downwards, possibly by switching to a tariff with fewer minutes. Alternatively you may want to move on to a new providers (to keep your number) or move on to a new telephone number. Pay as you go (prepay) tends to be an option for low-use or users too young to sign up to a contract.
Mobile phone reviews
Other sources of information include looking at review sites.
Buying memory for your phone?
Unlocking your phone
Your phone may need unlocking. Phones usually allow only a limited number of attempts (5).
www.trycktill.com/eng/unlock_swe.asp - appears to have free unlocking for a limited number of phones (click on the UK flag for English instructions), primarily good for Nokia users.
Nokia.nigelcoldwell.co.uk/unlock/ - free unlocking software
Alternatively, you may want to have your phone unlocked by your local phone dealer.
Thinking of selling your old phone?
If you haven't traded your old phone in for your new one, you may want to sell it or give it away:
See also this site's dedicated Selling and Recycling page.
Tracking your phone - keep track of your child or relative
You may want to keep track of where the holder of your mobile is. For example, if you want to keep track of your child or relative. There are a number of UK services that allow you to locate or track your mobile. They tend to charge a mixture of monthly fees and per-track basis.