Best cheap phone deals July 2024 – cheap phone contracts and SIM-free phones

cheap phone contracts
(Image credit: Future)

These days, you don't have to spend a lot to get one of the best phones, especially thanks to some cheap phone deals offering great prices on very capable handsets. 

As such, finding the best phone deal for you doesn't mean you'll be channeled into spending money on a big flagship phone. Rather, the best cheap phones have the capability to snap at the heels of more powerful and expensive models, with all but the most hardcore of users not likely to notice a great deal of difference in everyday use.  

To help you find a great phone deal, we've collected all the cheap phone contracts and SIM-free phone deals currently available and put them into our handy comparison tools to help you compare, refine, and choose the perfect deal for you. And, if you're unsure about anything to do with finding the right deal, we've answered some of the key questions surrounding cheap phone deals too.

Today's best cheap phone contracts

Best SIM-free cheap phone deals

While a phone contract is the easier way and the cheaper option upfront, if you're willing to go SIM-free, you could save even more money in the long run.

When you buy a phone contract, your total cost is almost always going to be more expensive than buying the phone SIM-free and shopping through SIM-only deals for a lower-cost airtime plan. This is especially true considering how much cheaper SIM plans have become thanks to MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) and third-party comparison sites.

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Cheap phone deals: frequently asked questions

What should you look for in a cheap phone?

While you'll be saving money on your bills, buying a cheaper phone will mean making a bit of a sacrifice in certain other areas to get that price down. For some handsets, this will mean an outdated design with cheaper materials, a lower resolution screen, weaker camera performance or a slower processor.

When buying a phone, consider these factors and whether they are important to you or not. Certain handsets, while affordable, will offer high-end features in exchange for a reduction elsewhere.

- Camera: While the cameras on phones improve massively every year, many cheaper phones remove some of the more premium features. This could mean you only have one lens, have a lower megapixel lens or don't have some of the AI-related features that other devices have.

- Chipset: When it comes to cheap phones, many will sacrifice a great chip to improve the value. But if you find the right phone, you may discover they're using processors only recently used by flagship devices.

- Design: If you're looking at cheaper phones, you can often end up with a plastic body or an older design to make up for the cost. While it isn't the end of the world, those who like a high-end-looking phone should keep this in mind.

- Screen quality: Flagship phones these days offer some truly incredible screens with crisp QHD+ and vibrant colours. A more budget handset is going to take a sacrifice here and you are unlikely to find quite the same quality on a more budget device.

What is the cheapest phone network in the UK?

Throughout the year, each mobile network will have sales and offers that make them cheaper than others depending on the device you want to purchase, however, in general, the big four networks rank:

1. Three - cheapest

2. Vodafone 

3. O2

4. EE - most expensive

Something to consider, especially with EE and O2, is the variety of benefits you can also receive with your deal, for example broadband, TV, or subscription packages for less, all included in your one bill for added simplicity. 

MVNOS

If you're not set on one of the four main networks mentioned above, there are other cheaper networks that you can use. The likes of Talk Mobile, Sky, iD Mobile, and Tesco Mobile all use one of the four major network infrastructures to provide their service, providing the same signal quality you would expect from the major provider but with fewer benefits, allowing their contracts to be cheaper. 

Apple or Android - which has the better cheap phones?

While Android has far more cheap handsets when compared to Apple, it doesn't mean it is the better choice. In fact, the iPhone SE is one of the best budget handsets around.

While it is a great choice for the price, Apple on a budget is a limited area. Android on the other hand offers a massive wealth of budget handsets ranging from Samsung through to OnePlus, Google, Moto, Nokia and more.

If you're set on Apple, your mind is pretty made up. If you're happy to go for Android, you will have plenty of choices available to you.

Rob Dunne
Deals Editor

Rob is the Mobile and Broadband Deals Editor for TechRadar. Coming from years of experience working with phones on shop floors and giving customers the best deals on their tech, Rob is the dream adviser for readers looking to save money on top mobiles, accessories and broadband no matter what their needs are. Whether it's helpful information and expertise, niche benefits, or simply finding the best value for money, Rob has the know-how to guide you in the right direction towards your next tech endeavour. Outside of work, you'll find Rob on the tennis courts, in the gym, or diving into the biggest and best games of the year.