The dos and don'ts of getting a mobile phone deal
What makes a good mobile phone deal? Here's a few tips to make the most of your deal...
Getting a decent mobile phone deal can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
With so many deals available, it's hard to know where to start, and easy to get lost among all those minutes, texts and mod-cons.
Of course, we're on hand to help out, and Rachel Robson recently highlighted the best deals for low, medium or high users.
But what else should you look for when choosing your perfect plan, and what should you avoid?
DO choose the right tariff
OK, this first tip isn't exactly rocket science, but according to mobile comparison site Omio, there are over 200,000 different mobile phone deals to choose from, and spotting a good deal isn’t as easy as you think.
Luckily, sites like Omio have nifty little tools which will scour the thousands of deals available for you.
You simply use the slider tools to choose how many minutes and texts you need, together with how much you're willing to pay each month, and they’ll find a tariff to suit you.
You also have to think about any added extras you’ll need. After our last mobile phone round up, many of you asked how the networks compare when it comes to internet browsing.
If you're looking for a SIM-only deal, O2 and T-Mobile offer free internet on their Simplicity and Combi £20 a month tariffs, and Orange offers the same on its £30 plan (although if you’re on the Dolphin pay-as-you-go tariff, you get free access to Facebook, Bebo and MySpace by topping up £10 a month).
3 goes one step further by giving you 75 minutes and unlimited texts and internet browsing for £15 a month on its Texter and Internet 15 tariff. You'll need to commit for 18 months, but you'll get a free Nokia E63 to browse on (which looks oddly like a Blackberry).
This deal beats the other networks hands down, where you'll need to spend at least £20 a month (and in many cases sign a 24 month contract) in order to get a free phone with internet browsing.
Just bear in mind that if you choose a SIM only internet deal, ideally you should choose a 3G handset that supports HSDPA (no, I don't know exactly what these letters mean either, but it's fast) in order to get the most out of your browsing experience.
Less speedy GPRS-based EDGE phones also offer decent speeds, but slower GPRS phones can get annoying. So slow that some Blackberrys I’ve used reminded me of the dial-up days when it took five minutes for Google to load. You have been warned.
It's also a good idea to check coverage for your chosen network in order to see how good service is in your area. All the major networks will let you punch in your postcode to see how good coverage is in your area.
DO go online!
One of the best things about buying your mobile phone online is you'll get more for your money.
As well as these online tactics, cashback sites such as Quidco and TopCashback will give you up to £100 back if you take out a deal through their site. So bear this in mind next time you’re looking for a deal.
DON'T be seduced by freebies!
Everybody likes the idea of something for nothing, but as the old saying goes: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Loads of companies offer freebies in return for you taking out a contract, and whether it's the latest console or a shiny new laptop you want, chances are someone is giving one away for nothing.
But these deals come at a price, and on closer inspection, these 'freebies’ are usually anything but free.
For example, e2save.com is currently offering a free Nokia 2630 with a free and highly coveted Wii and Wii Fit console, plus 600 minutes and unlimited texts each month.
However, in order to bag this deal, you'll need to fork out £35 a month, and tie yourself into an 18 month contract.
Plus, Gamestation is selling the Wii and Wii Fit package for £214.99, and you can get the Nokia handset for £29.35 at Tesco. So, while you'll pay £630 for the 'free Wii' package with your phone, it would only cost you £604.34 if you bought your mobile phone and then bought the Wii package separately - a saving of £25.66!
Not only is buying SIM only cheaper, but you won't be tied into a contract, and have the freedom to switch to a better deal within 30 days.
So stay away from freebies!
DON'T go for the cashback deal
Cashback offers are another way mobile phone companies try to hook you in. Deals usually look good on paper, and will offer, for example, 12 months free line rental.
They’ll tell you there are no catches, except you’ll have to send your 1st, 4th 10th and 13th monthly bills to them in order to claim your cash.
If you miss one statement or it gets lost in the post, they'll not only refuse to pay that month’s cashback, but will stop paying the cashback for the rest of the term.
You’ll also usually have to send your bills to them within a tight time frame. Again, if you miss it, you’ll miss out. So if you’re looking at one of these supposedly juicy deals, be organised, or your could end up out of pocket.
DON'T get lazy once you've taken out a contract
Finally, if you've already taken out a contract and find you use too many or too few minutes, hope is not lost, and you can still switch your plan to one that better suits your needs.
All the major networks will allow you to move to a more expensive price plan almost straight away. However, moving to a cheaper price plan is a slightly different story.
On one end of the scale, 3 will not allow you to move to a lower price plan while still in contract, and T-Mobile will only allow you to change price plans one month before your contract ends. With 18 month contracts now the norm, this is likely to be at month 17.
Orange, O2 and Vodafone are slightly more lenient, and will allow you move price plans after nine months of your contract have passed. So keep your eye on the ball - or in this case, your minutes and text allowance!