Tech in check: how to choose which phone to buy

Tech in Check

How To Choose Which Phone To Buy

Mobile Phones

The mobile phone market is ever-changing with new deals, options and payment plans emerging all the time. It can be difficult to choose which phone to buy and finding a suitable tariff can be challenging, which may lead to you opting for a contract that’s not best suited to your needs. The most useful approach when choosing which phone to buy is to first think about what you’re going to be using the handset for most; whether it be voice calls, text messages, surfing the net or playing games, for example.

Keep in mind what different members of the family are likely to want from their device and let that guide you when selecting which phone to buy. Sitting down together and making an individual list of everyone’s priorities for both the tariff and handset may be a helpful exercise, which should make it much easier to compare mobile phones. For instance, having the latest handset could prove expensive, so if this isn’t important to you, look for a handset that covers only the priorities on your list. A few key factors to consider are:

  • Calls, texts and data needs – many people don’t use texts and use data instead for messaging apps
  • Usability – does the phone need larger text or a larger screen?
  • App compatibility
  • Camera quality
  • Storage – will you need lots of storage for photos, music and files?
  • Durability and insurance needs


After you’ve drawn up the list, use a tool to help determine your average usage, like Confused.com’s data usage calculator. This allows you to work out how much time you spend per month using each type of service, which should help you choose the best mobile phone deals. Children and teenagers may use a large amount of data from viewing videos, for example, but this may be via a mobile network, a free Wi-Fi connection or at one of the thousands of hotspots around the country. Apps and sites such as myHotspots can help you find the nearest Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re out and about and save you a considerable amount on your data allowance or usage.

Once you’ve asked these questions, it’s time to have a look at what mobile phone deals are on offer, and there are some great tools out there to help you. If you’d like to look at impartial reviews across all handsets and mobile phone providers, have a look at the Which website. For direct mobile phone comparison sites, uSwitch and Money Supermarket allow you to enter in your requirements and see the best options available on the market.

Monthly Contracts

Monthly phone contracts can start from as little as £7 per month and allow you to choose from a range of handsets. You will usually be required to commit to a contract for 12, 18 or 24 months which means you are restricted to that service provider for that period of time. You may be interested in mobile phone providers that allow customers to upgrade their handsets at anytime, which is done by splitting out both the interest-free handset cost as a ‘loan agreement’ and the monthly tariff. With this option, if you do want to upgrade then it’s possible to keep the same tariff, but change the amount you pay for the handset.

For monthly phone contracts, you can also opt for itemised billing, which will list particular texts, calls and premium rate charges and may be useful for keeping tabs on your child’s usage.

Pay As You Go (PAYG)

With PAYG, you pay for your calls, texts and data usage without being tied in to a contract, by simply buying usage bundles. This option might work well for kids, as you can control the amount of money that they put on their phone and agree together on a limit. This allows them to have responsibility for their own usage, but means you can still keep an eye on their spend as they will not be able to exceed the available credit.

SIM Only

If you are happy with your current mobile handset and just want to change your contract, you can save money with a SIM only deal (sometimes known as SIMO). You can keep your old number and get a great value deal with a contract tied to a SIM and not a handset. There may be an unlocking charge for the handset, which allows you to ‘unlock’ it from the provider from whom it was originally bought so that a SIM from any network can be used.

Useful Tools for Keeping Tabs on Spending

If you are particularly concerned about data usage or you want to limit how much kids spend so that you don’t end up with an unexpectedly large bill at the end of the month, you may be able to add a flexible cap to your contract. This means that you can control your spending and make sure that you keep within a certain pay-bracket. Some mobile phone providers, including Tesco Mobile, allow you to set a spend limit that when reached, will stop you from being able to continue using your phone unless it is topped up in the same way you would with a PAYG handset. This may be useful when looking at phones for younger users, as sometimes they are not aware of the costs that can be incurred.

Ultimately, the best way to make the right decision when it comes to selecting which phone to buy is understanding how much you are willing to pay and what you value as important functions you want your phone to provide in your everyday life. Many of us often end up paying extra for unlimited texts and minutes that we rarely use. In fact, The Telegraph reported that more than half of mobile phone users waste more than £150 annually, as they don’t use the full minutes and text allowance that their contracts allow. Careful research can really help.

Useful Resources

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