Our mobile phone bills are one of the largest monthly expenses many people have, which makes it even more important that you find the right deal for your needs. This means not only trying to find your next shiny new phone, but also determining how you plan to use it.
Work out exactly what you need
Everyone uses their smartphones differently, and it is important to take a look at your past usage history, to see what you really need. Unlimited offers can be appealing, but if you really only chat for 200 minutes a month, then you are wasting money.
Most phone networks will let you log in and see your past usage – in terms of calls, texts, and data. This information is invaluable, as unless you are making some major life changes (such as heading off to university or moving cities to start a new job) then in all likelihood the number of minutes you spend on the phone and the number of texts you send in a month will remain somewhat similar in the future. Data, however, is a slightly different proposition.
How much data?
How we use our phones has changed dramatically in recent years, with each change bringing with it a resultant increase in data use.
For example, people more commonly using their phones to send messages than to actually call anyone these days, and the messages that are sent are increasingly via apps like WhatsAppp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or Viber – all of which send the messages over your data connection.
Beyond simple messaging, our social media use continues to climb skyward, with more of us sending pictures and videos via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and twitter than ever before. Again, this means more data.
Lastly, streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube can all use up a significant amount of data, especially if you are streaming at 1080P or higher quality. If you listen to a lot of streaming music or watch a lot of streaming videos, then you will need quite a few gigabytes of data in your plan.
Find the right phone
Working out which new phone you want sounds simple, but the wealth of options these days means that some people just jump at the latest release without first checking out their other options, and this can end up costing them more than £100 per year.
The first question to ask yourself is whether you want an iPhone or do you prefer an Android phone from the likes of Samsung, LG, Sony, or HTC? You get far more choice with Android devices because Google offers the operating system for free to any manufacturer that asks, but some people prefer the unified experience that comes with Apple products. Moreover, Apple has now decided to keep a number of its older models on the market, so whilst you could opt for the latest iPhone 8, many networks will offer you a much better deal on an older model like the iPhone 6S.
Depending on the phone you choose, the majority of your monthly bill could be a payment for that shiny new gadget in your pocket. For example, if you bought an Apple iPhone X on a 24-month contract, then as much as £40 per month of your spend will be just for the phone. So you need to ask yourself whether you will use the extra features and superfast processing of the latest and greatest phones, or will a more mid-range or older model better suit your needs?
Choose a network
Traditionally, we have only had a handful of mobile operators to choose form in the UK – EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone. However, today these networks are joined by dozens of smaller so-called MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), that piggyback on the infrastructure of the big four, but can provide some significantly cheaper deals.
Some of the MVNO networks are household names like Virgin Media, Sky, and Tesco Mobile, while others are linked to high street stores like iD from Carphone Warehouse’s and IQ from Fonehouse. The most important choice about a network is whether they have good coverage in your area, but the rise of MVNOs means that even if only one of the big four offers 4G in your town, then you still may have a dozen operators to choose from that make use of that one network’s infrastructure.
Find the lowest price
You might think that buying directly from an operator would offer you the cheapest deal, but in reality many of the networks offer exclusive discounts to shops, resellers, and price comparison websites, so it always pays to shop around.
Once you have decided the phone you want, the amount of minutes, texts, and data you need, and your choices for network provider, it is worth checking a variety of price comparison sites to find the best deal. Some price comparison sites will compare 10-20 networks, whilst others like Metrofone specialise in competing to find the lowest price for a smaller number of offers. It is always worth checking them all to make sure you are paying the best price.
Photograph by FirmBee