Mobile phone deals are one of those big investments we have to make sometimes - forking out either on a SIM-free handset or an all-in long contract so when you pile all of that money in, you want to know you're getting the right choice for you.
So when you're choosing, what should you look for? What kind of price is acceptable and do you really need a flagship? These are all questions we look to answer in this dedicated guide.
For those that already know what device they want, this will be easy! Simply scroll down to the chart below to see the best mobile phone deals and contracts in the UK right now.
Still unsure, left in a daze trying to decipher the lingo of phones? That's where we come in. In this guide, we've broken down data caps, network privileges and other factors you need to consider.
And if you're in the position where you know you want one of the big three handsets, we have some dedicated guides to help out there. Head straight to our iPhone deals guide, Huawei phone deals or our Samsung phone deals for a more detailed look.
Mobile phone deals comparison
The top five mobile phone deals
While you might have a perfect idea of what handset you're after, the choice can be quite overwhelming with hundreds of devices across both Android and Apple available to you.
Below we've gathered a mix of the top five options including Apple's latest and greatest, Samsung's top options and more.
iPhone 12 deals / iPhone 12 Mini deals
Both the iPhone 12 and 12 mini offer the latest iteration of Apple without the huge prices of the Pro and Pro Max models. You're getting market-leading camera quality, Apple's new A14 Bionic chip - the fastest out there - 5G, and a stylish design. All in all, both handsets are some of the top choices around.
iPhone SE deals
Apple's latest cheap phone, the iPhone SE is the 2nd generation of Apple's cheap device. It brings a lot of impressive specs from 2020 including Apple's A13 Bionic chip, 4K video, portrait mode and a lot more. However, alongside this it manages to massively drop the price thanks to the iPhone 8 design.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra deals
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung's largest and most powerful handset yet. However, it is also it's most expensive, charging some pretty massive bills each month. For that price, you're getting Samsung's powerful Exynos 2100 processor, a quad camera set-up, leading screen quality and giant battery.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE deals
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE was the final addition to the S20 range and the only one that hasn't been discontinued. It brings the range way down in price, bringing affordable specs to Samsung's top devices. You get most of the key specs of the other devices but at a far lower price.
Google Pixel 4a deals
The Google Pixel 4a is the brand's latest budget device, providing high-end camera specs at a bargain price point. While it doesn't provide all of the high-end specs of a flagship, it does go big on camera performance and brings with it Google's clean Android experience.
SIM only deals and SIM-free mobile phone deals:
What is a SIM only deal?
Sometimes, you don't really want a phone contract. Maybe it's too long, maybe you've found an offer somewhere that makes it cheaper to buy just the handset or, maybe your existing contract has finished and you're not ready to say goodbye to your old device yet.
In this case, you can simply get the SIM on its own. With SIM only deals, you can either get one on a pay as you go basis (not advisable unless you rarely use the internet or calls/text) or get a contract.
When you get a SIM plan, you are simply paying a much lower monthly fee for just your calls, texts and data. These can be on 1-month rolling contracts, 12 months or even 24 months.
Much like phone contracts, there are a lot of different providers who offer SIM plans but some of the best are:
- Three SIM only deals: Affordable pricing and massive data plans
- EE SIM only deals: More costly but the UK's fastest and the best all-round
- Vodafone SIM only deals: Affordable, great for extra benefits and speeds
- O2 SIM only deals: Like Vodafone, this is a great all-rounder
- Smarty SIM only deals: Affordable, big data and 1-month rolling contracts
How do SIM-free phones work?
A SIM-free mobile phone is exactly as the name suggests - a phone lacking a SIM. Buying a SIM-free device is, in most cases, cheaper than getting any contract mobile phone deals but it does require a large upfront spend.
That's because you're paying the full price of the handset upfront. Then you can simply buy a SIM plan or put in one you already have. In almost all cases, this is the cheapest option as long as the upfront cost isn't too hard-hitting for you.
Choosing a phone contract:
How much data do I need?
There is no simple answer to this question and it will completely depend on your own usage. For most people you can simply look at how much data you used with your last contract, if this is your first phone, here's a simple guide:
If you rarely use the internet or many apps while away from the internet, you can get away with a low data cap. The lowest possible is 500MB a month which will allow for the occasional Google search, a trip on Google Maps and some light social media.
Go up to around 2GB and you can do an extension of the above - light uses of data throughout the month.
This region will work perfectly for a lot of people. If you're not planning on streaming or downloading on the go, you'll be able to quite comfortably use the internet and apps on the go without fear of hitting your cap.
However, intensive usage or any kind of video streaming will see you quickly run through data.
This is the cap that we would imagine working for the largest number of people. Like the above, you'll be able to use social media, Google Apps and general small uses of data without any worry.
However, with this you'll also be able to download and stream on the go without running into your cap - just avoid intensive gaming or HD streams.
Anything from 30GB up through the 200GB+ caps is going to be plenty for almost anyone. Streaming in HD, gaming on the go, downloading big apps - all of this will be fine.
Finally, completely unlimited caps. This is really only going to be for those who tether other devices off their phone, anyone who doesn't have internet where they live or if you really are burning through data.
Here's a full guide to how much data you need for a more detailed breakdown
What's the best network to go for?
While most people will think of the main four networks - EE, O2, Vodafone and Three - there is actually loads of networks to choose from, all with their own benefits.
Which network is best for you will depend on a number of factors. Do you want something fast? A network with good 5G? Or maybe you just want the cheapest option, even if that means signing on for longer.
Read more: What's the best network?
The UK's fastest network and also the most popular. EE has carved out a position as a top-tier network. It offers some of the best 5G coverage and EE throws in a huge wealth of free subscriptions when you sign up, including BT Sport, Apple Music, BritBox and more. However, with all of those features, it is also one of the most expensive options.
See all of the best EE phone deals
The biggest lure to O2 is the network's Priority rewards. From 2-4-1 dinners and free coffees to first refusal on big gig tickets, O2 is the network for regular goodies. Plus, they have 1,000s of Wi-Fi hotspots in shops and cafes that you can connect to. O2 also has a great 5G rollout now.
See all of the best O2 phone deals
Three doesn't really do the fancy features like O2 and Vodafone's reward schemes or EE's streaming subscriptions...it's just really cheap. Three often has the lowest prices around for big data plans, especially on 100GB or unlimited data plans. It also has one of the best rollouts of 5G so far.
See all of the best Three mobile deals
VeryMe is Vodafone's secret weapon. It aims to match O2's Priority rewards scheme by offering free coffees, competitions, discount codes, data boosts and a whole lot more. While it won't be quite as fast as EE, Vodafone doesn't fall all too far behind when it comes to ping, download or upload speeds.
See all of the best Vodafone phone deals
While the large majority of mobile phone deals fall on one of the above networks, there is also a host of other networks available. These include Sky, Giffgaff, Voxi, Virgin, BT, iD Mobile and more. They all have their own benefits, some being affordable bills, some being more flexible contracts or even just data boosts.
What storage size will I need?
Depending on what handset you choose, you'll be presented with a few storage size options. The majority of choices will start at 128GB of storage these days but some do drop as low as 64GB.
If you tend to save things on the cloud and rarely download any music, videos or general large files, 64GB will suffice. However, for most people, a minimum of 128GB will be a necessity.
The bigger question is whether its worth considering the 256 or 512GB options we're seeing these days...and in most cases, it's not worth it.
Unless you're downloading an entire library of Kindle books, hoarding Spotify playlists and trying to have the entirety of Netflix at your fingertips, these larger options just aren't worth the additional costs.
Of course, the easiest way to know is to look at how much storage you're using on your existing phone and work off of that.
Many Android devices offer expandable storage as well so if you've gone for a storage size too small, you can always remedy it with certain handsets.
Android or Apple? How to choose a operating system:
One of the biggest questions you'll need to consider when choosing a new phone is whether you want to go for Apple or Android. Realistically, this will entirely come down to your preferred operating system.
Apple is simple and easy to use. Because it is the sole brand using this operating system, the apps tend to be more consistent and there is a higher level of security.
However, there is far more choice with Android and no matter which Android brand you choose, there is more customisation available to you.
Each Android brand offers a slightly different operating system. Samsung's is highly customisable with lots of features, Google's is stripped back and easy to use, much like Apple's, OnePlus' is a simpler version of Samsung's and Huawei...well, Huawei is in a bit of a limbo as it decides what to do without Android.
In essence, if you want something simple and secure, Apple will be a great choice for new mobile phone deals (if you don't mind paying a bit more of course). If you like more choice and like to customise to your exact requirements, Android will be the way to go.
Still unsure? We have a full Android vs iPhone guide to help you out.
Is 5G an important factor to consider?
While it is very much the future of phone contracts, 5G isn't really something we would worry too much about right now. Still in the early days of its rollout, 5G isn't all that available right now.
Yes, most networks now offer 5G and most of the new handsets being released come with 5G capability but, in terms of actual practicality, it's just not there yet.
Walk around the streets and you'll be lucky to even notice a boost to 5G, even when you're in the city centre - the main place it has been rolled out already.
So if the phone you're going for happens to be 5G - great, you've future-proofed yourself for the future. If not, we really wouldn't worry too much about it - there's still plenty of time.
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How to switch mobile phone deals
For the longest time, it has been a massive pain to switch your number. This required calling your network and having a tedious chat about PAC codes. Now, thanks to a new ruling from OFCOM, you can simply text to get your PAC code.
Step 1. Text 'PAC' to 65075
Step 2. Send the PAC code you receive in that text to your new provider
Step 3. Put your new SIM into your phone and make sure it is working
The new Text to switch feature means you can simply send a free text with the word 'PAC' to 65075. Your provider will then need to reply within a minute, sending you a PAC code that will last for 30 days.
The response sent to you must also include information about any early termination fees or pay-as-you-go credit balances. You can then give your PAC code to the new network you're joining.
You can now also text 'INFO' to 85075 to get information about your contract. This includes what charges you might need to pay or if you can end your contract early.
You can now also request your new PAC code via your online account with your network. Like the texting option, your network must respond within a minute. If you have more than one number linked to your account (e.g family accounts) you must request your PAC online.
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How do I go about selling my old phone?
When you decide to give up the old handset and start fresh with a new phone, you're left questioning what to do with your old device. If you want some money for it, you realistically have two options: trade-ins or selling it.
These are both excellent options and can net you a large sum of money to spend on your next mobile phone deals. Trade-ins are the easier option, allowing you to simply sell your phone to the retailer you buy your new phone from, earning a discounted price. Selling your device is more complicated but can net you the larger reward.
How to sell your phone:
As far as phone recycling services go, SellMyMobile is one of the best. It brings in a collection of phone recycling services so you can compare a host of prices. It brings in TrustPilot scores, amount of days until you'll get paid and more.
We have a full guide on how to sell your phone if you want to find out more.
Many retailers will offer you the chance to simply trade-in your old device when your contract ends. Whether it be Samsung, Apple, Carphone Warehouse, Mobiles.co.uk or another option, you can often cut a few hundred pounds of a contract's price.
This can be especially helpful if you find a contract you like that has a very high upfront cost that you'd like to reduce. It is also a lot more simple than outright selling your phone as a lot of the work is done for you.
To do this, simply find a mobile phone deal you like and work through the process of buying it, you'll see a trade my phone in section on most retailers.
Phone brands at a glance
While the two names that will likely come to mind are Apple and Samsung, there is loads available. These mostly fall into the two camps of Apple and Android with a couple of exceptions like Huawei as it separates from Android, and the now dead Windows phones.
But which is best? Each brand has its own style, specs and features to make it stand out. While there are loads of brands available, the main competitors are:
We all know Apple. The brand that produces the world famous iPhone, Apple is in a unique position to offer its own operating system and one that unlike Huawei, has been incredibly successfully rolled out. It's known for its security, large collection of available apps and clean looking software. Unless you're a die-hard Android fan, Apple will likely be a brand on your considerations list. It is especially great when it comes to cameras and processing power...but it is easily one of the most expensive phone brands.
Worldwide, Samsung is still the most popular phone provider, standing out in all regions as Android's number 1 brand. It produces a lot of phones, giving you a massive amount of choice each year. Samsung is best known for its high screen quality, powerful processors and impressive camera features. However, it has a habit of offering a lot of features. While that sounds good on paper, it can often mean an overwhelming experience - if you're coming from a Google or Apple phone that you liked, this might take some getting used to.
Google is in a unique position as a phone brand and that's because it also makes Android...the operating system used by Google phones and...well, most Android phones. This means Google phones get updates first, and arguably have the cleanest and best designed Android operating system. While Google's design can look a bit dated and it is often lacking in processing power, it makes up for this with its operating system and its incredible camera software, frequently being considered one of the best phone camera brands.
OnePlus is a brand that is quickly gaining traction in the UK. In many ways it is very similar to Samsung and is arguably it's biggest Android competitor. Great screens, processing power and constantly improving camera quality - OnePlus is easily competing with Apple and Samsung for that top spot right now. One key factor to note with OnePlus, it often joins up with a network to be exclusively offered. Usually this is Three making SIM-free the best way to go.
Ah Huawei - how times have changed. Just a few years ago Huawei was rapidly climbing the ranks, giving both Samsung and Apple a run for their money. Now, the brand has fallen off somewhat thanks to its on-going ban from Google. Huawei was placed on the 'entity' list, a ban limiting how much it could interact with US brands. This meant a separation from Android - no longer being able to use Google Maps, the Google Play Store, Facebook and more, Huawei is in a slight state of limbo. The good news is that if you're going for the Huawei P30 series or older, you'll be exempt from this ban as the devices were launched before this all went down.
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