Mobile phones are a vital but sometimes costly part of everyday life for many people, particularly if they break or need replacing all of a sudden.
Here we have some top tips from consumer body Which? on how to save money on mobile phones and contract costs amid the cost of living crisis.
1. Buy a Sim-only deal
Buying a phone outright and getting a Sim-only deal often works out cheaper than buying a phone on a contract. Although not everyone will be in a position to pay the upfront costs for a top end device, today’s mid-range and budget handsets can offer great performance and a wide range of features – customers no longer need to spend big for a premium handset. These deals can also be accessed by customers who ask their provider to unlock their phone at the end of the contract.
Sim-only deals can be more flexible, with several providers offering one-month rolling contracts. This allows customers to switch providers to take advantage of better deals, and also avoid hefty price rises that affect longer-term contracts. Which?’s phone contract calculator can help work out if a contract or Sim-only deal is better for you.
Which? has a comparison tool to compare deals, which allows you to filter by overall cost. Some networks with the cheapest deals may be unfamiliar, but they’ll still use the same networks as the top four providers – and smaller providers consistently perform better for customer satisfaction in Which? surveys.
2. Look beyond top brands and models
Whether buying a new or used phone, it is worth looking beyond the big brands. Which? often finds other commendable models in its reviews. For example, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G scored highly and received Which?’s great value stamp – it can be found on sale for less than £300.
Those who prefer Apple or Samsung could also pay less for certain models. The iPhone SE is Apple’s most affordable model and scored highly in Which? tests. The 2022 version can cost £449 – more than £600 less than the iPhone 14 Pro. Samsung’s alternative, the Galaxy A33 5G, costs less than £330 and also warranted a great value recommendation from Which?.
3. Buy refurbished
Another way to save is to buy a refurbished phone over a brand-new one – it is also more environmentally friendly. For example, an iPhone 13 costs £749 bought new from Apple, but you can find a refurbished one for around £550 from CeX, with a two-year warranty.
Buying a refurbished phone from a company rather than an individual gives the buyer more consumer protections. Apple has its own online shop for refurbished devices and Samsung also sells Certified Re-Newed phones. Both brands supply these models in new boxes with instructions and accessories, plus a one-year warranty.
Alternatively, you can buy from second-hand specialists such as Back Market, MusicMagpie or Envirofone. Devices typically come with a one-year warranty and will be graded depending on how many cosmetic faults they have. And some mobile networks such as Giffgaff, O2 and Vodafone sell refurbished, too.
4. Trade in your old phone
You could get a discount on a new phone by trading in an old one. It often doesn’t matter if the phone is a different manufacturer’s model, many retailers offer trade-ins on any phone.
You can get an instant quote via Samsung, while Apple offers a trade-in on your old iPhone and lists the maximum it will offer by model on its website. Network providers also offer trade-ins. For example, Vodafone allows customers to trade in their current phone in return for a bank transfer, credit or monthly saving on their bill. EE also has a trade-in site and claims that average savings on a phone, tablet or smartwatch are around £170.
5. Get a family or shared mobile plan
Combined Sim plans offer discounts and perks that could save money, such as rolling over and sharing unused data if there are multiple people in the household.
The downside is that it may be harder to switch to another provider in the future, as it is an extra hassle for everyone to change from a shared deal. Family plans work best if everyone uses a similar amount of data. Group plans are available from BT, EE, Sky, Smarty and Tesco Mobile.
6. Check the reviews before buying
It’s important to check reviews before splashing out on an expensive phone. If there are annoying problems with a new device, or it needs upgrading after a year or two, it might not be worth what you spend on it. Which? has a range of free advice guides to help shoppers choose a mobile phone that’s right for them.
7. Repair your old phone
If you’re looking to replace your old phone because of a cracked screen or because the battery life no longer holds up, you’ll save a lot of money by repairing instead of replacing, and it’s better for the environment. A new battery could cost less than £20, and replacing a display less than £100. Which? has a helpful guide on how to repair your mobile phone.