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Buying a mobile phone on a budget

Best deals on the most popular mobile phones

By Oli McKean

Article 3 of 3

We help you pick the best mobile phone contract deal for your budget and needs.

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Navigating the myriad of contract deals for mobile phones can be confusing. To help you pick the right one, we highlight some good deals on popular mobile phones and give our top tips to help you shop smartly.

Once you’ve decided which phone you want to buy, the next step is choosing how you’re going to pay for it.

Many of us choose to take out a contract rather than buying a phone outright to spread out the payment and avoid an initial heavy hit to our bank balance.

Below, we’ve picked out good deals from Vodafone, EE and O2 available at Carphone Warehouse for some of the most popular phones we’ve tested to help you get the best value for your money. Prices below are correct at 21 April 2017.

We also give our top tips on getting the right contract for your needs, to help prevent you overpaying for extra data you don’t need or incurring extra costs for exceeding your allowance.

Plus, we explore the pros and cons of buying outright and getting a Sim-only deal vs taking out a contract.

Still undecided on which mobile phone you want? Head to our mobile phone reviews to find the best choices.

Best contract deals on the Samsung Galaxy S8

Out of Vodafone, EE and O2, Vodafone offers the cheapest way to own the Samsung Galaxy S8. You can pay £36 a month with a £129.99 upfront cost, meaning you’ll spend £993.99 over 24 months. However, this only gives you 1GB of data, so you’d have to be careful with browsing over 4G or 3G – using more than 1GB in a month will incur extra costs.

We think EE offers a good deal on the Samsung Galaxy S8. You can pay £219.99 upfront with a £35.99 monthly cost (£1,083.75 over 24 months). With this, you get unlimited texts and minutes, a generous 7GB of data, and free six months of Apple Music thrown in (you’ll need to download the app from the Google Play store).

If your biggest consideration is having loads of data, you might want to look at Vodafone. For 60GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts, you’ll pay £9.99 upfront and £68 each month – a total of £1,641.99 over 24 months.

Head to our Samsung Galaxy S8 review to find out whether it’s a phone worth investing in.

Best contract deals on the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)

EE has the cheapest contract deal on the Galaxy A3 (2017) compared with Vodafone and O2 – and it’s better too. You’ll pay at least £471.75 over 24 months (£17.99 a month, £39.99 upfront), and you’ll get 1GB of data and six months free of Apple Music. Conversely, the cheapest deals from Vodafone (£506 over 24 months) and O2 (£525.99 over 24 months) offer just 500MB of data.

If you want a bit more data, EE might be a good option. For 5GB of data, you pay £25.99 a month with no upfront cost – meaning you’d spend £623.76 over 24 months. For 5GB through O2, you’ll pay £35 a month, meaning it’s over £200 more than on O2 over 24 months.

Is this mid-range handset worth considering? Head to our full Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review to find out.

Best contract deals on the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)

As with the A3 (2017) EE offers the cheapest contract deal on the Galaxy A5 (2017), compared with Vodafone and O2. You get 1GB of data for £17.99 a month and £129.99 upfront. The cheapest deals on O2 and Vodafone are more expensive than EE’s, and offer just 500MB of data.

If you use your phone a lot, you’ll probably want plenty of data in your bundle – otherwise you’ll need to pay extra for more data used. EE gives you 5GB of data and unlimited texts and minutes for £30.99 a month and £39.99 upfront, costing £783.75 over 24 months. Vodafone, on the other hand, charges £34 a month and no upfront cost for 4GB of data, £816 overall. Here, the EE contract is cheaper and gives you more data.

Before deciding on which contract is best for you, read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017).

Best contract deals on the Samsung Galaxy S7

At the time of writing, O2 has a really good deal on the popular Samsung Galaxy S7. You pay £27 a month and £49.99 for unlimited minutes and texts and 3GB of data – £697.99 over two years. If you go with the cheapest deal on Vodafone, you’ll pay more and get less - £28 a month and £59.99 upfront (£731.99 over 24 months) for 1GB of data.

If you want more data, EE is a good option. It has a deal where you pay £25.99 a month and £149.99 upfront for 5GB of data. This makes for a total of £773.75 over 24 months, while you’d spend £943.99 for a Similar O2 deal, and at least £815.99 for a 4GB deal with Vodafone.

Since its launch, there’s been a lot of hype around the Samsung Galaxy S7. Find out whether it’s really among the best smartphones you can buy by reading our full Samsung Galaxy S7 review.

Best contract deals on the Apple iPhone 7

Out of the three providers, Vodafone offers the cheapest deal on the iPhone 7 at Carphone Warehouse. You can pay £32 a month and £79.99 upfront for unlimited texts and minutes and 500MB of data, which adds up to £847.99 over 24 months. However, 500MB won’t be enough for most people – and you'll incur extra costs if you use more than this over a month.

You might prefer EE’s cheapest deal. At the moment, you can get an EE deal on the iPhone 7 where you pay £33.49 a month and £99.99 upfront for unlimited texts, 1000 minutes and 2GB of data – which works out as £903.75 over 24 months.

If you want a lot more data, EE is still a good choice. For a deal with 7GB data you can pay £943.75 over 24 months – whereas you’ll pay £963.99 for 5GB of data with O2, and £965.99 for 4GB of data with Vodafone.

Apple launches are always big news – but are the products worth your attention? Find out in our full Apple iPhone 7 review.

How to find the best mobile phone contract deals

When choosing which mobile phone contract to opt for, you need to think about how you typically use your phone. Here are our top tips to help you pick the right one:

  • Think about how many minutes and texts you need. Most contracts offer unlimited texts and minutes. But if you rarely make calls or send SMS texts with your mobile phone, look for deals with a capped allowance – they tend to be cheaper.
  • Really consider how much data you need. Some of the cheapest contracts offer 500MB of data – however, this will only be enough for people who very rarely use the internet on their phone. While the cheaper contract with less data might be tempting, you’ll incur extra costs if you exceed your allowance – and it can work out more expensive than if you’d taken out a contract with a more sensible package for your needs to start with. If you don’t know how much you use, you can typically find this out from your current provider.
  • Can you spend more upfront? If you’re happy to pay a little more upfront, the overall cost over 24 months can work out cheaper for a Similar contract than if you choose to spend less initially.

Is it cheaper to buy phones outright and then take out a Sim-only deal?

If you’re willing to look around, you almost always find it works out as cheaper over time to buy a phone outright and take a Sim-only deal rather than going down the contract route.

Many of us are justifiably put off by the thought of spending so much to start with. But if you do have a bit of spare money and are willing to make a saving further down the line, a Sim-only deal is a good choice.

For instance, Vodafone has a deal on the Samsung Galaxy S8 where you spend £993.99 over 24 months for 1GB of data. Alternatively, you could buy the phone outright for £689 and pay £10 a month for a Giffgaff Sim-only deal for double the data allowance – which would work out as £929 over two years (if the Sim-only contract price doesn’t change).

If you do take out a Sim-only deal, be careful to find the best contract – there are instances where providers charge more than their rivals and offer less data. Sim-only deals are often available on 12-month or 30-day contracts, meaning you can generally change the deal more regularly than if you’re on a contract, to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.