It used to be sim international data simple to take out a mobile contract. Sim-free purchases can be made with a wide range of handsets and providers, as well as big discounts on handsets that might make a Sim-free purchase seem better.
Check our advice before you sign on the dotted line if you are tempted by one of the many discounts.
Our guide to the best mobile phones and Sim-only deals can be found here. You can find the best Sim-only and contract phone deals.
1. Upfront costs and data allowance
The upfront cost of a high-end phone could run into hundreds of pounds, even if you see a low monthly fee advertised for it.
The headline monthly cost might be misleading if you purchase a proportion of the phone up front and spread the rest over the contract.
High data allowances can include double the data and are often sold as great deals. You don’t have to pay for something you won’t use if you consider how much data you need.
If you add the upfront cost and typical data allowance to our mobile phone cost calculator, you can see if you should buy on a contract or Sim-free.
2. Potential price rises
Check the T & Cs. Many mobile networks have recently introduced yearly above-inflation price rises in their contracts, meaning that you will see a yearly increase of around 5% to 7%. Depending on when you take out your contract, these costs can add up, even if they are not in isolation.
If you want to make sure that the price you are paying for stays consistent, you should look for a provider that does not bake in price rises and has a 30-day airtime contract to give you flexibility of changing. You can find the best Sim-only deals here.
3. Mobile coverage
It is important to know that you will get good coverage, not just at home, but also at your places of work and other areas you like to frequent, if you have found the right deal with the right provider.
Our coverage map can show you how good the coverage is in your area.
If you are moving to a provider on the same network, you will know whether reception is good or not. The table below shows the signals your provider uses.
EE O2 has ThreeBT Mobile, GiffGaff, and Sky Mobile.
Pick up a cheap pay-as-you-go Sim from the network you’re interested in and try it out first to make sure reception is good.
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4. Contract length
Many people are turning to longer contracts in order to save money. If you are tied to a contract for 36 months instead of 24 you may end up paying more money in the long run.
At the time of writing, Virgin Mobile is offering an Apple iPhone 12 Pro with a 12GB plan for just 55 a month, which works out to a total of 3 1,320. The same phone and deal would cost 40 a month, which works out to a total of over 1,300 dollars.
If you get an end-of-contract notification, it can help you avoid being over charged for your phone.
5. Roaming costs
It is worth checking your provider’s roaming plans and how much it costs to use your phone in a country you are traveling to if you are planning on using your phone in the EU.
Outside of the EU, you can pay as much as 42 pounds for a single song on your favorite streaming app. If roaming is important to you, consider a monthly contract with a roaming-friendly provider.
There are no plans for other providers to charge for roaming in the EU. Two big providers have announced changes.
You can find out how to prepare your phone for travel.
6. Flexible contracts
Flexible contract lengths from 12 to 36 months have been introduced by some providers.
The flexibility may be attractive to some, but you may end up paying more for it.
You have to decide if price or flexibility is the most important factor in choosing your next mobile contract, and if you always have the latest phone.
There is more to a good mobile contract deal than the price.
One of the most important factors in choosing a contract is having a cheap deal.
Do you like talking to a human when you have a problem? Giffgaff isn’t for you.
Want to get more incentives such as discounts on food and drink? You might want to check out the bigger names.
The best and worst mobile networks are determined by the annual mobile networks analysis. Make sure you check out our guide to the best and worst mobile providers to find out where you can get a new provider.