Monday, 15 October 2012

Cheap Mobile Phone Deals

As a student, (back in the early '90's), I was shocked to be told that before the end of the decade, nearly everyone would have a mobile phone. I think I was one of the last few who held out, finally giving in and getting one in '97 - and now they are considered essential to modern life!

As my own contract is up at the end of the year, I have watched with interest, as various new phones have been released, and my colleagues' behaviour as each of their contracts have run out too (it certainly tells you a lot about the psychology of people).

And people watching is great! In my particular office, we seem to have representatives from all different walks of life. We have the office nerd, the apple fanboy, the guy with little money and even less sense, the tightwad and the admin staff, most of whom are teenagers. It all builds up to give a great picture of what does and doesn't work, and the best way for finding the best value deal for yourself.

So where do you start?

Well the first thing to try and avoid is falling for the "Next Big Thing", which is usually the latest Apple device, or just lately the Samsung Galaxy S3. Why? Simply because there'll be another NBT next week, and NBT's only look shiny and new for so long before we get used to them and begin wanting the next NBT.

This is where attitude comes in. I touched on this in my very first post. You need to innoculate yourself against, the very common, Happy Shopper disease. Buying something new and shiny only makes you happy for a short time period, before the feeling wears off and there are much better, longer lasting and cheaper ways of making yourself content.

Talking to the office techie-guy, he thinks the new Galaxy S4 will be with us sometime in the Spring of 2013, which seems ridiculously soon to me, (the S3 was released in July), but then he's more informed than me. It seems Sony, HTC and numerous other mobile phone manufacturers are all releasing their top of the line flagship phones over the next few months, (they may have been waiting to see what Samsung would do with the S3), and all of them are looking to out perform the S3, so it could happen.

However, if you really want an S3 in particular, this could be good news. When the rest of the competition start marketing the latest NBT, it's likely prices for the S3 will drop. Will your phone feel old fashioned when the S4 comes out just a few months later? Probably, but then know the S5 is just around the corner too... It's a game with no end.

Then there's the Galaxy S2. This is still on sale, and although it's a phone that's over a year old now, knowing someone who has one, it's still quick enough (and always was), to browse the internet, facebook, text and do all the other things we do with our mobiles. And this is where we come to the Apple iPhone 5.

Apparently, because it is 4G capable, the iPhone 5 is significantly quicker (at downloading data), than it's predecessor the 4S, which was also released earlier this year, (apart from being slightly bigger there aren't any other significant changes). I don't know about you, but to begin with, this will only affect a few people here in the UK, as we don't have a significant 4G network yet. In fact, where I live out in the country, many places still don't have 3G. Worth upgrading for? Probably not.

Another thing the iPhone 5 shows us, is that mobile manufacturers are now running out of ideas. The average smartphone these days has so many features rammed into it that it's difficult to come up with something really new and innovative that in time people won't want to live without. One office colleague got himself the new S3 as soon as it hit the shops. When asked if it did anything his old iPhone 4 didn't he told me, "No, but it's quicker" - and for that he pays twice what I do. What does he do with it? He facebooks and tweets, something I'm still using my trusty S1 for.

This brings us to contracts.

My S3 toting colleague pays £35/mth for unlimited texts and calls plus a set amount of data AND he had to put money down for the phone. For myself, I have 300 minutes, 1000 texts and unlimited data for £18/mth with the phone free, as it was just past it's NBT date.

300 minutes is 5 hours. Excepting travelling sales people, I don't think most of us use our mobiles to call people anywhere near this much. Same for the texts, excepting teenagers maybe. Speaking to one recently, she advised me she could easily text her mates 20 times before she'd even stepped foot in to work in the morning...AND she tweets and facebooks regularly.

To me, this is where unlimited data contracts come into their own. Sending a picture via text, costs 40p and the picture will be compressed too. Emailing it instead means the recipient gets the full size picture, and I don't get charged. It also means I can happily use Skype via wifi, to call my cousins for free in Sweden or France. Imagine how much that would cost if you used your "free" minutes. Then there's many different messaging services available that operate via the internet too.

But how do you get such a low monthly cost contract like that?

For starters, I looked into what all the major carriers were offering, and the cheapest equivalent at the time was £25/mth with Vodaphone. Going into Carphone Warehouse, I was offered their tariff at £18/mth, with the underlying network from... you guessed it, Vodaphone! At their shop, Vodaphone had previously told me they could price match or even beat someone else's price, so I went back, but apparently not! The guy still tried to sell me the contract, but why would I take the same thing for £7 a month more???

So the best deals are to be had by avoiding the main 4 service providers and buy from independant suppliers who basically re-label and re-sell one of the main 4's services!

The other tool you have of course, is loyalty. At the end of your contract term, a provider will want to keep you on board, preferably for another 12 to 24 months. At this point, haggle! They will offer you all sorts of freebies to keep you on the same monthly amount, but don't fall for it. Ask for a better deal or walk away. Other providers are always offering deals to tempt in new customers at better rates.

Lastly, I was going to suggest that for those of us who have successfully honed our money saving skills, buying a mobile outright and a SIM only deal would be cheapest of all, but after checking, this may not be the case. After an admittedly very brief search, the cheapest unlimited data plan I could find, was still £16/mth. Considering this method means the vendor gets the cost of the mobile covered up front, rather than repaid from a monthly contract, this seems a bit of a poor deal. One to avoid, methinks.

So what are you paying for your mobile??

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