This buyer's guide will introduce a few aspects of mobile phones and ways to finance your next phone purchase. It's easy to spend too much on a handset, calls, texts and data, but it's also incredibly easy to save money. Let's find out how you can cut the cost of your next phone, by finding a package which meets your personal needs.
Easy Direct Communication
The first modern mobile phone was created way back in 1973 when researchers at Motorola placed a call to their business rivals Bell Labs using a prototype handset. It took a decade or so for the technology to be rolled out, but by the 1980s, 1G phones were a common sight in major business centres.
The mass market for mobile phones really started to expand in the 90s, when SMS messaging was introduced (1992) and prepaid phones hit the market. Suddenly, mobiles became a key part of youth culture, with customised ring tones and games like Snake, and some iconic phone designs competing for attention.
Everything changed when 3G broadband and the smartphone arrived in the early 2000s. Now, mobile phones could handle huge amounts of data and display high definition graphics via touchscreen interfaces. Devices like the iPhone (2007) emerged which brought together computer technology and telephony, pioneering a whole new way to communicate.
By 2018, 1440p visuals were becoming standard, smartphones were being optimised for use with Virtual Reality systems, and fingerprint scanners were starting to seem old fashioned. With technology progressing quickly, every generation of phone brings new innovations.
What Are the Major Types and Models of Mobile Phone?
As you'll see when you scan the hotukdeals mobile phone listings, phones come in a range of different price levels and variations. Here's a brief rundown of the varieties you'll encounter when you come to buy your next phone:
Basic mobile phones – All across the world, millions of people still use phones from manufacturers like Nokia which allow them to text and call, but very little else. Lacking the range of functions offered by smartphones, these phones are great for people who don't want to be distracted, and simply want connectivity and nothing else. They are always a cheaper option as well, and with their simple interfaces they tend to suit people who aren't familiar with touchscreens and apps.
Smartphones – The most popular form of mobile phone these days, smartphones feature a touchscreen as the main interface and pack powerful processors underneath their compact exteriors. They are able to surf the web, stream videos, play games, run business apps, and – of course – send texts or WhatsApp messages and make calls. They vary massively by reliability, power, size, weight and price, so buyers will need to decide whether they need a premium model like Apple's iPhone brand, or something more generic and cheaper.
Keyboard phones – This part of the market is dominated by one brand: Blackberry, whose phones feature a large screen and a compact keyboard underneath (which can sometimes be slotted neatly into the casing, reducing the phone's overall size). They are great for business users, and for students who need to type large amounts of text but don't want to lug around a laptop.
Phablets – Phablets are a mixture of phones and tablets – and are also a middle ground between smartphones and laptops. Models like the Samsung Galaxy Note provide relatively large screens which work well with stylus accessories and are ideal for creative applications like art, design or architecture. And they also stream videos well, adding extra acreage for a better viewing experience.
This buyer's guide will be concerned mainly with smartphones, as they are the largest segment of the market, but bear in mind that alternatives exist, and you'll find discounts for all sorts of phones at hotukdeals.
Mobile Phones: Some Key Specifications to Look For
When buying a new phone, there are numerous key details to look out for. Get these wrong, and your phone could stream Netflix series' frustratingly slowly, or fail to run a game you really want to get into during your daily commute. Here are some specs that need to be brought into consideration when making a purchase:
Size and weight – Mobile phones are supposed to be highly portable, but the largest models struggle to fit into jacket pockets and can weigh you down as well. The screen size is another important metric, and is often measured in inches, so if you're someone who works in metric units, some conversion is required. These days, screens tend to measure around 5.7 x 2.5-inches or more, but some models offer more space than others, and it can really matter when streaming videos.
Processor/CPU – A good processor is essential if you want to get decent performance from a smartphone, so look for models with Snapdragon 835 or 845 processors and multiple “cores” (which help to carry out instructions more quickly). With Apple phones, the processor is referred to as “A” then the number of the phone generation, while Samsung's Exynos processors have 4-digit codes, like 8895 and 9810.
GPU – Just like computers, phones have graphics processing units on-board, and these can make a huge difference to playing games, manipulating photos or watching videos. The key metric here are the GFLOPS, which measures how many operations a GPU can carry out per second. Somewhere around 240-260 GFLOPs is currently the peak of smartphone performance.
Memory – The more memory your phone has, the more efficiently it will be able to run programs, delivering a slicker user experience. Measured in gigabytes (GB), the gold standard is around 6GB, and you'll need every byte if you intend to play demanding games or multi-task different apps.
Storage – Apps, games, videos and photos all consume valuable disk space, making storage a key consideration. Usually measured in GB, mobile phones tend to have 32-64GB of disk space, and sometimes more. You should also be able to store files with Cloud-based services like Deggo, while some models (particularly Samsung) cater for Micro SD cards as well.
Resolution – Different screens have different resolutions. For instance, even though a screen might be large, it can actually look worse than a smaller version if the image seems pixelated due to a poor resolution. The measure here comes in the form of a number followed by a lower case “p” - which shows the number of pixels across the screen. The most expensive phones offer 1440p, but some models drop down to 720p, which may be unsatisfying for streaming purposes and photography.
Battery life – Often overlooked by buyers, a mobile phone's battery life can make or break it as a usable device. Who needs a phone with amazing specs, only for it to cut out after 30 mins of use? Good phones balance impressive memory, resolution and processor power with long battery life, and there are still models around which let customers down. This is one area where basic (non-smartphone) devices score highly. You can rely on them to retain charge all day-long, so they are great for emergency use.
Operating system – Broadly speaking, there are two OS options for phones: (for Apple phones) and Android (for almost everything else), although some phones run Windows as well. iOS apps are checked by Apple and tend to be high-quality, and the OS is clear and well-supported. Android phones are more customisable and you can expand their storage space, but accessing support can be tough. For most people though, the OS isn't a huge buying factor.
Mobile Phone Data and Wi-Fi Connectivity
Data is an area that almost all smartphone buyers will have to make a decision. When you buy a phone, you don't just buy the processor, screen and casing. You also buy access to networks which connect that phone to the internet, and the data you take from those networks is generally rationed by price. Hence, data can be a major expense for heavy users.
Generally, data comes as part of a mobile phone package, and will be added to the bill each month, usually whether you have used your data quota or not. This can lead to situations where you overpay for unused data. In fact, a 2016 study found that Britons tend to use around 50% of their data allowance every month. So this is obviously somewhere that people struggle to make the right decision.
When you buy a mobile, you'll probably sign up for a Data Plan, where the monthly quota is measured in GB (or MB in some cases). If you're the kind of phone owner who only checks their emails and Facebook, and occasionally uses Google Maps, there's a good chance you'll overpay for data – so it pays to be conservative. But gamers and streamers will need much more. That's where the data deals on the hotukdeals mobile phone listings come in handy.
However, there's an alternative to buying data from your network. These networks connect to the web via 3G or 4G systems, but you can also surf the web via conventional Wi-Fi on most phones. Most phones are able to connect to Wi-Fi hot spots. There may be some issues with Android phones, with a few tweaks involving the Wi-Fi settings menu. Here's a handy guide to get you up and running.
Not all Wi-Fi hot spots are free and no everywhere is covered by a Wi-Fi connection. This means that relying on Wi-Fi to connect to the internet will inevitable mean that the web is sometimes unavailable. But with whole cities converting to free Wi-Fi, and free Wi-Fi spots available in libraries, museums, stations, airports and all sorts of businesses, you'll often be able to check your Facebook without paying a penny for data.
Picking the Right Mobile Phone for Gaming
Mobile phone gaming is increasingly popular, and the games available are becoming more complex as phone technology develops. But what should gamers look for when buying a smartphone?
Firstly, a decent screen size is essential, so look for 6-inches and above, and high definition screens are a major plus. Apple's Retina displays or the AMOLED displays on high-end Samsung phones will deliver crisp colours and HD visuals, without causing lag in the process. RAM should be maxed out, and disk space matters too – anything about 128GB is good.
Then there are things like speakers, which will matter to fans of action games which just don't feel right without a mixture of deluxe visuals and audio performance. And, of course, CPU and GPU power is essential.
But wait a second before opting for a premium phone like an iPhone X. The type of games you play will make a big difference. Many people adore puzzle games, card games and platformers for mobiles, and these don't require top of the line performance. So if you just want to play Candy Crush, don't be seduced by the most expensive phones.
If you do need a phone with maximum storage capacity, try to find contracts which offer storage for free. This is an area where phone companies offer target consumers with discounts and freebies, so hunt around and you'll probably find a gamer-friendly package.
Introducing iPhone 11 — Apple [Apple United Kingdom]
Ways to Finance a Mobile Phone Purchase
When you've picked the right phone for you, the next step is key: financing. Whatever model you choose, there will be an endless variety of ways to buy the phone, the SIM card, and the connection to a particular mobile network – and a huge range of prices as well.
Phones broadly fall into three categories: SIM-only, pay as you go, and contract. All three have their advantages and disadvantages, and there are ways to save money with all of them. However, before we deal with them, let's think about some general tips on saving money when it comes to buying your next phone.
Always compare prices. Whether you opt for a long-term monthly option or buying just the SIM, there will be plenty of competing options from the various mobile phone companies. It hasn't always been easy for consumers to find the best value deals in such a complex marketplace, but price comparison sites now make things much easier.
Be careful about picking the right phone for your needs. Too many people are swayed by the marketing of companies like Samsung or Apple, or the need to keep up with friends who own the latest devices. For most of us, mid-range alternatives from lesser companies like Huawei or Alcatel will do just as well, and cost much less upfront. And as we've noted, people are terrible at working out their data needs. Try to access your account or do some calculations to get a ball park figure for how much data you really need, and buy a package accordingly.
Upfront costs can be lower than long-term costs. Whenever you buy something, you have to make a choice between paying more now, or running up interest by buying on credit, and the same applies to phones. If you find a handset you love at an attractive price, it makes sense to buy it and go SIM-free, instead of starting a package with higher final costs. But the price of upscale smartphones can make this a tough thing to do. Still, if you have the money it's worth calculating final and initial costs, and spending the lowest amount.
Why Should You Go for a “Pay as You Go” Phone?
As the name suggests, Pay as You Go (PAYG) deals involve buying the mobile phone handset and the SIM, without signing up for 20 months of payments at the same time. Instead, buyers access mobile phone networks as and when they need them, topping up their data allowance, texts or calls periodically.
You can generally top up Pay as You Go accounts online, but some networks also cater for top ups at bricks and mortar shops, so it's not usually a problem to boost your account if you need to make a crucial call.
This might sound like a great setup, and it is, with reservations. If you don't use your phone much or want total flexibility about how much data you use, Pay as You Go is ideal. But it has a major Achilles Heel. Networks charge a premium for Pay as You Go users, and these packages can be incredibly expensive for regular mobile users.
However, it's a simple and handy way to buy a phone. If you can't get a 20-month deal due to a poor credit rating, and you can't afford a handset for deal featuring just the SIM, it could be the only option. And it can be useful for people who want to keep a handle on their data usage.
What are the Advantages of Buying a Contract Phone?
This type of package is the most common way to buy a mobile phone. In these packages, buyers generally purchase the handset they desire for a very small initial outlay, even for high-end models. The cost of the handset is then paid off in instalments over the period of the deal, along with a fee for data, calls and texts.
In most contracts, the buyer receives a SIM-card with the phone, and pays on a monthly basis over 18-24 months. During that period, the customer won't be able to break the arrangement (which is the point of contracts in general), so they will be tied to a particular network until the term runs out.
Contracts can be great if you know what you are looking for and are happy with being tied to a network. You can get hold of a sophisticated, cutting edge phone without spending huge amounts of money, and you can often get good deals for data, calls and texts.
The flip-side is that customers can often be persuaded to sign contracts which don't deliver good value in all areas, which makes using price comparison sites and the hotukdeals mobile phone listings absolutely essential. Contracts also require a credit check, which can pose problems for some buyers.
Some deals are also interest-free, and these are the ones to go for. They are relatively rare, but by checking the hotukdeals mobile phones listings you should be able to track them down.
If you see a 20-month package that you like, it could be worth pursuing. But be sure to calculate your data needs, and don't buy more than you require. Stay away from salespeople in high street mobile phone shops if you feel vulnerable to a hard-sell, and think about whether you need an expensive handset or not.
What are the Advantages of SIM Only Deals?
These deals are very different to contracts. In these packages, customers buy the SIM card which contains their phone number, and can be added to any handset which accommodates that type of SIM.
You'll have to sign an arrangement to purchase the SIM, but these contracts tend to have some major advantages over handset and SIM deals. They are often more flexible and short term, letting you sign up for 30 days, at which point you can leave and try a different network. And even 12-month contracts featuring just a SIM card are cheaper than buying the handset as well.
Of course, there's a catch. With this type of deal, it helps if you possess a handset or purchase one. In many cases, this will require hunting around for an affordable smartphone handset, and it will often be possible to make big savings by combining your handset purchase with a SIM only deal.
In many cases, phone companies will want to sell a handset and a SIM as part of this kind of deal. If you aren't careful, this can be costly, as upfront phone prices can be poor value. Always check handset prices alongside the equivalent cost without the SIM, and the 20-month cost, before making a purchase.
The Different Types of Smartphones on the Market
When you come to make a smartphone purchase, you’ll find a number of different types to choose from. Here are the major varieties:
Android and iOS phones – Virtually all smartphones will run either Android or iOS as their operating system. Apple devices use iOS, while most other phones use Android. The differences between the two aren’t massive, but can be important (see the special Android vs. iOS section below). Other operating systems for smartphones are the Windows OS and Blackberry OS, but their market share is very limited.
Phablets – You may also come across the distinction between phones and phablets. Phablets are situated between ordinary phones, with their limited screen size and processing power, and tablets like the iPad, which have much larger screens (but can’t call or send SMS messages). They are more expensive and heavier to carry around but have more functionality than standard phones and smaller devices, like the iPhone SE. Examples are the iPhone or the Google Pixel XL.
Camera phones and standard phones – Another common distinction is between “camera phones” and ordinary phones. The vast majority of smartphones have cameras, but these cameras vary in quality. Good camera phones like the iPhone 8 have 12MP cameras, while lower-end phones won’t offer more than 6MP, and you’ll be able to tell the difference when your holiday snaps are enlarged.
Gaming phones – Not all phones are optimised for gaming, either. The best gaming phones have powerful graphics processors. They also benefit from having SD slots to add extra memory along with handy features to help launch and manage your game collections.
As you search through the hotukdeals listings, you’ll probably also notice that smartphones fall into several price categories. At the highest end of the market, Apple and Samsung devices like the iPhone X, the iPhone Xs, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel can sell for over £500, but there are mid-range options at £200 or less like Motorola's Moto G range or Samsung Galaxy's A range, or, and what you might call entry-level devices for much, much less. You’ll get what you pay for, but even the cheapest smartphones offer much more functionality than old-style Nokia mobiles ever could. Of course, the best place to find all the best smartphone deals is on hotukdeals.
iOS vs Android: Is There a Difference?
The overwhelming majority of the world’s smartphones run either iOS (Apple’s operating system) or Android, so you’ll probably have to make a decision about which one to go for. It’s not a massive deal for most users but there are some important differences that are worth thinking about.
For example, if you know that you will be relying on your smartphone to navigate unfamiliar streets, go for an Android phone. Google’s navigation tools are superior to Apple’s in almost every respect (although Apple Maps is rapidly improving), and most users will already be familiar with the Google Maps interface.
Compatibility is also a factor. If you are a Gmail user or have a large amount of business documents in Google Docs folder, Android phones will make it easier to link everything together seamlessly. Similarly, if you are an iPad or MacBook user and your world revolves around iTunes, using an iOS device makes much more sense.
Updates are another thing to think about. Traditionally, Apple has been far more efficient at keeping iOS up to date than Google has with Android. Android used to be updated around once a year, while Apple make regular refinements to their OS. However, the differences are closing, and for most smartphone users they will be very hard to perceive.
Flexibility could be more important, though. If you have technical skills and want to customise your phone, Android is definitely superior. The platform was partly designed for app developers to tinker with it and add their own innovations, something which certainly doesn’t apply to Apple’s tightly controlled OS.
Android is also generally better if you intend to transfer files from external PCs or other phones. Apple makes it a little complicated to add files that don’t pass through iTunes, while users of Google’s OS just require a USB cable.
Then again, iOS users can take advantage of the iCloud, allowing them to store much larger amounts of data in the cloud than is available (for free) to Android users. This is particularly attractive to professionals who need to handle group projects, and it limits the need for disc storage, making the whole phone more efficient.
Basically, both Android and iOS are easy to use operating systems with huge app libraries and the kind of features that everyday smartphone users will appreciate. The differences apply mainly to more demanding users, and neither is markedly superior to the other for general users.
Accessories to Improve the Mobile Experience
Mobile phone accessories can be purchased to increase the life of your handset, add storage space and provide a portable charging option.
Phone Case – Mobile phone cases serve a number of different functions; primarily they are designed to protect the handset from scratches or bumps, but they also add a stylish touch of personalisation. Some companies, like Otterbox specialise in quality phone cases for all types of mobile, but you can also find a variety of leather, plastic and rubber cases more cheaply on eBay. Alternatively, Tesco Photo and Vista Print UK make phone cases featuring a photo of your choice.
Screen protector – Screen protectors keep the vulnerable glass screen of your device safe and are easy to apply; they are available for many different brands. These thin transparent sheets are extremely hardwearing and provide an anti-smudge coating without affecting a phone’s touch sensitive function, or the original glass screen.
Micro SD memory card– Micro SD memory cards can be slotted into some types of mobile in order to increase the amount of data stored in the handset. They can also be removed and used to transfer information or images quickly to another device, like a laptop.
Power bank– Power banks ensure your mobile will never run out of charge when you are out and about. On one full charge, most power banks can deliver multiple full charges to a mobile phone using a USB cable. They are a great choice if you are travelling.
Adapter – New adapters can be purchased to fit the connection on your phone if you want to replace one that’s damaged or you’d like a spare for travel. You can also buy in-car phone chargers that plug into a car’s lighter and ones with multiple plugs that top up various types of phone from a single cord. Some adapters come with a plug attached whilst others have a USB connection.
Tips on Buying Best Price Mobile Phones
When it comes to buying your next phone, be sure to factor in all of the essentials: make and model, memory and storage space, graphical capabilities, data requirements, support, screen size, weight, battery life and – most importantly – price.
After that's been done and you've focused on a couple of possibilities, the best find an unbeatable deal is at the hotukdeals mobile phone listings. You'll find current deals for Apple, Samsung, Nokia and Google Pixel phones from companies like EE, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, Plusnet, Carphone Warehouse and Three.
Make sure you consider all the options. Our listings include SIM only, Pay as You Go and 20-month deals from all of the UK's major providers. And if there are interest free deals to be had as well, you'll find them here.
If you're buying an expensive handset, shopping around Black Friday in November could be a good idea, and Amazon Prime Day can see some deals arise as well. As new versions of the Samsung Galaxy or iPhone approach, older models will be discounted, too, so look out for savings.
Perfect Smartphone Deals at the hotukdeals Listings
Whether you're a data hungry mobile gaming obsessive, a Facebook junky who can't bear to be away from their account, or a casual user who needs to make a few calls every now and then, finding the right mobile phone package is easy. Just search the hotukdeals mobile phone listings and you're sure to find the right phone at the perfect price.