Mobile phone buying guide
The wide choice of handsets, networks and contracts is amazing, but can make it difficult to decide which deal is right for you.
This guide will help you understand the key features, latest technologies and purchase options to help you find the best phone, in the right price range, to suit your needs.
Look out for the ‘Our Experts Love’ range to find mobile phones with the most cutting-edge and useful features. And of course, if you want to see what’s on offer for yourself or find out more info, head to your nearest store and we’ll be happy to help.
Choosing the right handset
Before you pick your phone, consider what you plan to use it for. There’s no point choosing the latest smartphone if you’re only going to call and text. If you are on the hunt for a high-end phone, remember to read the specifications to see how well it’s suited to your needs for things like photography, music, media, or gaming.
What is the operating system?
The operating system (OS) is the software that runs a smartphone. It defines how it works, the app store you have access to, and how it communicates with other devices. Each operating system allows you to customise your phone and personalise the layout so it appears how you want it to. Most phones use similar touch gestures and controls, so you’ll feel at ease whichever one you decide to choose.
If you already have a laptop or tablet, its OS can impact how easily the devices can be synced and work seamlessly together. Whether you’re a Windows or Mac user, each OS will have its own way of and limitations on interacting and synching with your phone.
What operating systems are available?
When choosing an OS, you have two main options to consider, each with their own characteristics and advantages: Android is run by Google and is the most widespread operating system and iOS is exclusive to Apple iPhone.
Android is available across a variety of phones and brands, so you have more options when choosing the handset you want. Android phones are powerful, bright and clear. There are over a million apps available from Google Play, so you’re bound to find what you are looking for. If you own another Android device such as a tablet, you can instantly share your calendars, settings and apps, allowing them to work together seamlessly.
iOS is a stylish operating system that’s quick and easy to use. It works perfectly with other Apple devices, allowing you to easily share apps, music, photos and contacts between your iPhone, iPad, iMac or MacBook.
iOS can only be used on Apple products, so you’ll need to choose an iPhone. There are millions of apps available in the App Store, so you won’t run out of app options to choose from.
What screen size do I need?
Do all smartphones support 4G?
The latest smartphones are usually equipped to handle a 4G connection, but some handsets may only connect to 3G. Find out whether a phone supports 3G and/or 4G in the specification section of the product page. Remember, 4G doesn’t cover the whole country - you’ll be more likely to pick up a stronger 4G signal in larger towns and cities, although 4G coverage continues to expand.
If you’re on a 4G connection, you can expect faster downloads, less buffering time when streaming, and faster webpage loading times.
How much storage capacity do I need?
What do I need to know about processors?
Do more megapixels mean the camera is better?
Which phones are best for watching movies?
Smartphones come in a range of sizes, and larger ones are better for watching YouTube or Netflix. Grab a ‘phablet’ (which bridge the gap between phones and tablets) if you want something a little larger than average. A large screen is about 5” in diameter, and above 5.5” is considered phablet territory. It’s also worth looking at the screen quality, as HD or 4K displays offer a much sharper picture.
SIM free phones
A SIM free phone is a simple option which provides you with a handset and nothing else.
What does SIM free mean?
Why should I want a SIM free phone?
Pay monthly tariff options
Choosing the right tariff is important, as this determines how much you’ll be paying per month as well as your allowances. Tariffs vary in price depending on whether you choose a handset tariff, or if you just want a SIM-only tariff to use for your existing phone.
- Handset tariffs – Many tariffs are available with a phone at no charge, or at a reduced upfront cost. The value of the handset is built into your line rental, so you’ll pay it off slowly over your monthly bills. Contracts with a handset generally run for 24 months.
- SIM-only tariffs – Since you’re not paying for the cost of a handset, SIM-only tariffs generally offer a lower monthly price and/or more allowances in your bundle. You can also choose a shorter commitment, with monthly rolling or 12-month contracts available.
What are upfront costs?
What's the best network for me?
What is included in my monthly calls and texts bundles?
How much data will I use per month?
If I order a 4G tariff, am I guaranteed a 4G connection?
Will 4G use up my monthly data allowance faster?
Can I get a free gift?
New vs. upgrade pay monthly contracts
It’s important to understand the difference between new and upgrade contracts, and when each option is appropriate for you.
You can order a new contract, which comes with a new number. Alternatively, you can continue with an existing number on the same network, which is called an upgrade contract. Either option is available as either a SIM only contract or with a handset included.
- New Contract – Choose this option if this is your first contract, or if you want to move to a different network. If you do decide to change networks, you have the option to transfer your existing number across, which is called 'porting'.
- Upgrade – If you want to stay with your current network and continue with your present number, then select an upgrade contract. You’ll receive a new SIM card (regardless of whether you’ve ordered it SIM-only or with a handset), and your existing number will then continue seamlessly into your new contract.