Finding the best mobile phone deals
If you’re looking for the best mobile phone deals, Mobile Genie is the perfect place to start, middle and end your search. Whether it is entry level prepay Nokia feature phones on pay as you go or the latest top of the range Apple smartphones, we’ve got all the best deals around.
UK mobile providers offer a myriad of different options, but in essence it’s all pretty straight forward stuff. Just remember, if you want to get the best prices, you’ll need to do a little legwork in terms of comparison. That’s where we come in; below you’ll find all you need to find the best mobile phones deals.
Before you read on, we want to make it clear you don’t buy mobile phones directly from Mobile Genie – once you make your choice, you’ll be taken through to the mobile network or online store indicated. From there, you’ll be dealing directly with them.
Mobile phone comparison
There are several ways you can break down the available offers: compare by network, for example, or price. Below we detail how each of these could affect which mobile phone plans you choose. If you really are starting from the beginning, below you’ll also find a bit of information about the key handset manufacturers, types of phone etc.
Mobile Genie has a selection of tabs you can click on for each handset comparison table, as well as sliders to then narrow down your search even more. The key here is to experiment with these options – it’s worth investing a little time, as you may save yourself hundreds of pounds in the long run.
Best phone deals: Networks and retailers
Currently the UK has five mobile phone networks, operated by Three Mobile, O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange. Other companies, called MVNOs, offer deals and contracts by striking deals with these networks (this includes big names such as Tesco and Virgin).
Getting mobile phone deals in the UK is one thing, but you have to be sure the network you choose has good coverage in your area – there’s no point in getting a good deal on a mobile phone you can’t use! Before signing up to any mobile network, go to its website and use its coverage checker to make sure your postcode is well catered for.
Also, think about your other phone and broadband services: maybe you already get your home broadband from O2 or Orange, which could save you money if you choose them as your mobile phone provider. Or they may offer deals on the likes of cinema trips or high street offers.
As well as networks and MVNOs you’ll find phone deals from straight retailers. This includes high street stores such as Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4U alongside online retailers.
These stores tend to differentiate themselves by offering added extras, such as free gifts and cashback. These can be brilliant for the right person, but don’t let yourself be tempted into picking up something that you’ll never use. Do you really need another console or tablet PC clogging up the front room?
Feature phone, or smartphone?
Smartphones have really taken over the mobile phone market in recent years, with more than half of us now taking this option. But the humble feature phone is still more than enough for many. But what’s the difference?
In basic terms, a smartphone works much like a home computer, while ‘feature phone’ is now used to describe the more traditional mobile (12 buttons, small screen). The key advantage of a smartphone is it offers a high level of customisation in terms of apps, games etc. A feature phone is usually going to limit you with the functionality it arrives with.
The most iconic example of a smartphone is the Apple iPhone. While it comes with all the standard feature phone options, you can add to these by downloading all manner of extras – from games to apps including new internet browsers, business tools and entertainment/lifestyle apps.
In the early days there was a clear delineation in price between the more expensive smartphone and the cheaper feature phone. However, there is now a thriving budget smartphone market too. But just because they’re cheapest doesn’t mean you need one – some people will always want the simplicity of a feature phone; there’s less to go wrong, less to confuse, and the battery tends to last a whole lot longer.
Buy mobile phone deals by manufacturer
Some of us are simply set in our ways. Everyone has a friend who says something like, “who cares that there’s a new iPhone out, I know that Samsung make the best mobile phones”, or “I’ve always had a Nokia and I always will”.
However, you may have heard a lot of good things about a particular manufacturer but don’t know which model to go for. For example, HTC are widely reported to make fantastic smartphones, but a lot of people haven’t heard of them before.
If you compare by ‘brand’, you can start to compare deals and handsets from a specific mobile phone maker and find out exactly what it has on the market in your price range. Here are a few pointers:
- Apple: Quite simply, it makes the iPhone range and that’s it. If you love Apple, you’ll want one of these – but they’re not cheap. They’re also notable for having the best range of apps available of any smartphone platform, plus great styling and accessories. However, many argue they’re not as good as the price tag might suggest.
- Samsung, HTC, Sony: These three manufacturers don’t limit themselves by operating system, making smartphones for both the Android and Windows operating systems. Samsung and Sony also make cheap feature handsets at very low price points.
- Motorola: Alongside making smartphones with the Android operating system on board, Motorola also makes cheaper feature mobiles.
- BlackBerry: Mainly sought after by business users, manufacturer RIM concentrates on making BlackBerry smartphones that are strong on features such as document handling, QWERTY keyboards and security options. Like Apple, there are not BlackBerry feature phones – only smartphones.
- Nokia: Alongside its cheaper feature phones, Nokia makes smartphones which feature the Windows operating system.
If you’re still unsure, it’s well worth spending a little time to read the reviews about a particular handset – both from professionals and users. Again, that little extra effort to do the research can really be worth it; remember, you may have the phone for a couple of years.
Finding the best mobile tariffs
No matter how else you decide to compare mobile phones, getting the right tariff is essential. Mobile phone users in the UK waste an incredible amount of money every year on minutes, texts and data that they don’t use but have already paid for on contracts, or time-limited prepay top-ups.
If you’ve had a mobile for a while, try to go back through old bills and find your average usage to help you land the right mobile phone deal. If you don’t keep them, you can probably check online, or call your provider.
If this is your first mobile (or your first contract), we suggest going for a cheaper deal with less minutes, data and texts. However, be careful to keep an eye on it – if you are regularly hitting your limit, you can always up your allowance – your provider will be more than happy to oblige! It may not be so easy to downgrade if you got a very good handset deal that relied on you paying for an expensive tariff.
Phone fashion: which phone style suits you?
While many may see this as purely a cosmetic difference, a lot of people compare mobile phones by looking at the style, or form factor. If you’re not familiar with these terms, these are the most common:
- Candybar: This is the traditional mobile phone shape, either with a small screen at the top and a keypad below, or a standard rectangular touchscreen.
- Flip: The flip phone is a nice variation, as the screen is protected by the way the mobile flips open like a book. It also means you can have a larger screen and larger keypad. However, battery life can be affected (as it is often thinner), and they tend not to be as rugged.
- Slide: A slide phone gives the same scope for a larger keypad and screen, as with a flip phone, but you don’t get the screen protection. However, you get a full screen without having to slide the handset open, giving more scope to show information such as caller ID, messages, time etc.
Essentially, your style preference shouldn’t make too much difference to the kind of deal you can get. Most handset manufacturers (with the clear exception of Apple) make a selection of handsets in a range of styles to try to meet the majority of tastes.
As for colours, the handset's page will list any variations on the normal black, silver and white. But be warned, some colour variants will be exclusive to a particular network.
It might not be the best, but look at the free gifts!
If you’re not so fussed about the phone, or the tariff, then this might be a good place to start – especially if there are more gadgets on your wish list! You can find everything from game systems to car kits to mobile phone cashback being given away with the right phones at the right times, so keep a close eye on the ‘free gifts’ for that little something extra.
What do I do next?
Once you’ve found your ideal mobile phone deal, simply click ‘Buy’ to be taken through to the site that sells that particular deal and away you go. Good luck with your new phone!
Some key phone features
We’re not going to go into great depth here, but if you’re a beginner to buying mobiles online these are a few things to keep in mind when looking at phone specifications on our comparison tables:
- Operating system (or OS): If it has one, it’s a smartphone – if not, it’s a feature phone (see above). Put in the simplest terms, Android is the most popular in terms of sales; Apple has the most apps; BlackBerry is best for security/business; Windows is an interesting alternative from Microsoft.
- 3G, HSPA: If you want to use your phone for data, it’s pretty much essential for your phone to be capable of making a 3G connection, and preferably a HSPA one (a slightly faster version of 3G). If not, you will only ever get a very slow internet connection on your phone (unless you’re on Wi-Fi). A lot of modern smartphone contracts actually offer 'unlimited internet' as part of the deal.
- Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth: Wi-Fi means you can connect to wireless broadband, at home, in cafes etc. GPS will give you navigation options, such as maps and sat nav. Bluetooth is a short range wireless connection format, used most commonly for hands-free kits for driving.
- QWERTY: If a phone is listed as QWERTY, it means it has a full physical keyboard. If not and it’s a smartphone, it will most likely have an on-screen QWERTY that can be assessed on the touchscreen. Feature phones will tend to just have the standard 12-button set up.
- Camera/video: While many think the more megapixels the better, this shouldn’t be your only consideration. Flash and autofocus can be crucial, while video functionality (measures in frames per second (or fps) can also swing some purchases.
- Quad and tri-band: If you intend to use your phone outside the UK and especially if outside Europe, this can be crucial to your purchase. Mobile signals are sent out on four different frequencies, depending on where in the world you are. A tri-band handset will cover most bases, a quad-band all of them. You may want to check on specific countries before you purchase.