Choosing a new mobile contract can sometimes cause headaches. Do you want a 5G package, a new handset or a sim only deal? Are you looking for the cheapest contract possible? Which brand should you go for? Should you switch from an iPhone to the latest Samsung or Sony? What about an ethical producer like Fairphone? These questions, and the ones below, are just some of the queries you will have as you search through the new phone offers we feature. At Best Mobile Contracts we simplify your phone plan searches, breaking down all of the best mobile packages into easy-to-browse categories. After all, the last thing you need when you’re looking for a new smartphone deal is a headache.
What Are The Best Types Of Mobile Contracts?
Mobile contracts come in all shapes and sizes. Once upon a time, before the advent of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) like Giffgaff, iD Mobile and Smarty, you had little choice other than to take out contracts with the major mobile networks - EE, 3 Mobile, O2 and Vodafone. These networks typically offered new handset deals or pay as you go plans that, as standard, ran for 24 months. Then came Giffgaff in 2009 to transform the mobile contract landscape in the UK forever.
Giffgaff’s launch delivered more flexibility and choice than ever before for anyone looking for a new phone plan. Giffgaff didn’t tie customers into long-term contracts, instead offering month-by-month phone packages that gave power back to customers. Ultimately the major networks had to compete and began to offer cheap contracts of their own, including flexible deals, 12 month contracts and free handset phone offers. Now you can find all kinds of monthly plans across all network providers, whether you search by budget, by network or by contract.
Which Network Offers The Best Mobile Contracts?
Finding the best mobile contract to suit you might depend on where you live. Major networks like EE, Vodafone and O2 boast incredible coverage across the UK, including 5G coverage as well as 4G coverage. If you travel around the country you might prefer a mobile package from an all-rounder network. The biggest network in terms of coverage is the EE network, with an impressive statistic of 99% 4G network coverage. However, if you don’t tend to travel as much you might find that Vodafone, O2 or Three Mobile have as much appeal, depending on the type of contract you are looking for and the signal strength of those networks where you live.
Then come the MVNOs, which are basically smaller independent network providers that rent network bandwidth off the larger providers. They operate solely online so don’t have massive overheads like retail shop outlets, meaning that they can often offer more flexible and cheaper contracts than their major counterparts. As they are smaller, they can also put more focus on delivering excellent customer service, with Giffgaff, Plusnet Mobile and Sky Mobile all regularly featuring highly on the best rated customer service lists.
All of the mobile networks offer a variety of different kinds of phone and smartphone deals to cater for all budgets. Each mobile network provider offers options to pay more upfront for the latest handsets or spread your monthly costs over a longer period in order to avoid any initial outlay. The kinds of deals networks provide include:
- Free handsets with phone contracts
- Pay as you go offers
- Sim only deals
- Short term monthly plans
- 12 month deals and 24 month contracts
Which Network Is The Best For Pay As You Go Plans?
When mobile phones became essential items and not simply a luxury, pay as you go contracts offered useful ways for people to simply pay for what they use on their phone. With a pay as you go contract you literally pay per call, text or mb of data that you use. If you mainly use WiFi at home or work and don’t use your phone on your commute or are retired and don’t require lots of data use, then a pay as you go deal could be the perfect option. Pay as you go deals provide superb opportunities to monitor your phone and data usage, as using too much will result in going over your plan.
There are networks that specialise in pay as you go contracts. Some MVNOs like VOXI have won awards for their pay as you go package provision, through offering features like endless social media use, even on a pay as you go deal. Through those VOXI pay as you go plans you can sign up for a monthly contract that starts from as little as £10 per month, but use your data allowance for those services which you really need. You can browse your favourite social media networks for as long as you like without eating into your data allowance. Every network offers pay as you go packages that vary in cost and detail, but choosing the best of which is solely down to your preference.
What Are The Most Important Factors When Choosing A New Phone Package?
There is plenty to consider when switching mobile plans, not least whether to upgrade your handset or to stick with your current phone. This in itself not only depends on your handset, but it also depends on you and your situation. As with switching any kind of contract, you have to make sure that it is the right deal for you. Fortunately, there are enough mobile network providers offering scores of deals to give you plenty of options to make the right choice. The main factors you need to consider when selecting your new deal are:
- Network (which network offers the best coverage in your area?)
- Network generation (4G or 5G?)
- Handset (are you looking for a new free handset deal or keeping your current phone?)
- Contract type (pay as you go, sim only, pay monthly)
- Cost (minimum charge/top up, set monthly plan)
- Contract term (one month, 12 months, 24 months)
- Data (many pay monthly phone contracts come with unlimited messages and texts, but not every plan offers unlimited data use)
- Part exchange (some providers offer reductions if you part exchange your old handset)
- Perks (such as cashback, free handsets or free gifts that accompany your deal)
UK Mobile Networks
While there are only actually four mobile networks - EE, O2, Vodafone and Three Mobile - there are plenty of MVNOs. These smaller independent online providers “piggyback” off the signal provided by the Big Four. They rent signal bandwidth to provide more choice to customers looking for the best UK mobile deals, delivering more options and more flexibility.
EE is the largest network provider in the UK, which formed when Orange and T-Mobile merged in 2010. EE was the first UK network to launch 5G and the fastest network to roll out 5G coverage across the country. In 2015 EE was bought by BT, which also launched BT Mobile to benefit from EE’s network coverage.
As the UK’s second largest network, O2 is in a position to offer scores of the best monthly plans anywhere on the market, including free handset deals and perks such as its O2 priority scheme. Giffgaff was also born out of O2, revolutionising mobile phone contract offers for ever.
Vodafone UK is the UK’s third largest network, servicing over 17 million customers in 2020. Like many mobile networks, the company is multinational, operating in over 20 countries worldwide and offering mobile phone deals as well as fixed line broadband provision.
Three Mobile was the last of the major networks to launch in the UK, but following a series of speedy network improvements was the first network to cover over 80% of the population. With such comprehensive coverage it was able to provide extra choice in mobile contracts and compete with EE, O2 and Vodafone.
When Giffgaff launched in 2009 it revolutionised the mobile phone contract landscape in the UK. The month-long contract model challenged the big fours’ standard contracts, and though Giffgaff is wholly owned by O2 it maintains independence and appeal through its unique brand of mobile contract packages.
BT Mobile piggybacks off EE’s mobile network, which leaves its smartphone packages in a strong position thanks to EE’s excellent network coverage. BT offers a range of phone contracts that include monthly contracts, sim only plans and family sim deals.
Virgin Mobile was the first ever MVNO to launch in the UK way back in 1999. With the Virgin brand behind it, Virgin Mobile promptly spread across the globe to become one of the most recognised mobile providers in the world. In the UK it has signed various licensing agreements with mobile networks, but from 2021 it is powered by the Vodafone network.
Just as Giffgaff is powered by O2, Smarty uses the Three mobile network for its signal provision. Smarty specialises in cheap data contracts that range from 30gb right up to unlimited data deals. A further Smarty selling point is its use of data rollovers, paying customers back for data they don’t use.