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Mobile Phone Comparison

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Mobile Phone Comparison
iPhone 12 Pro 5G
Pixel 4a 5G
Pixel 5 5G
P 40 Pro 5G Dual SIM
Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Galaxy A32 5G

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Given how much we use our phones, it’s important we get it right when buying them. This means not only getting the right device, but also choosing the right network and tariff. 

If you are unsure where to begin when it comes to purchasing a new phone or getting a new SIM, read on.

Where to start

You have landed on this page because you probably fall into one of the following two camps:

  1. You are looking for a brand new phone to replace your old one.
  2. You are looking for a new SIM to replace your old contract that has recently ended.

If you are looking for a SIM for a phone you already have, we recommend you check out our SIM-only page.

But if you are looking to purchase a new phone and are unsure where to begin, carry on.

Looking for a brand new phone - Key considerations

There are quite a few things to take into account when purchasing a new phone. But the main things to consider are the following:

  1. How you want to purchase your phone
  2. What phone do you want / what phone is best for you
  3. Which network to go with

Do you want to purchase your phone on contract or pay for it upfront?

If you are looking for a brand new phone then you have two options; you can get a new phone by taking out a new pay-monthly contract, or you can purchase the phone outright and get a SIM separately.

Pay-monthly contracts - Quick overview

Pay monthly contracts allow you to spread the cost of buying a phone over a set period of time, usually between 12 and 24 months. During this period you will be provided with a pre-determined amount of minutes, texts, and data each month.

Pros

  • More options & greater purchasing power: You can choose a more advanced phone than you would if buying the phone up front, as you won’t have to make a full upfront payment for your handset.
  • Additional extras: Carriers will often throw in extras to lure you into a contract. For example, EE offer access to BT Sport for a limited period, while O2 offer access to Disney+ and their priority service. You’ll rarely get these kinds of offers when you buy a handset upfront.

Cons

  • Long commitment: Mobile phone contracts usually require a long-term commitment – usually 18-24 months. Some carriers will allow you to upgrade your phone early, but this will usually require you to take out another long-term contract.
  • Costs more over time: Generally, it’s cheaper in the long run to buy your phone upfront and take out a SIM-only plan than it is to take out a lengthy contract with a phone carrier. This isn't always the case though, so make sure you look at the total cost of any contract to double check before you commit either way.
  • Can require a credit check: Committing to a contract for this period of time usually requires a credit check, which can affect your credit score. However, not all networks will require this.

Purchasing a phone upfront - Quick overview

If you decide you want to purchase your phone and then take out a SIM separately, you will usually have a lot more choice and freedom, and pay less overall. It does come with its downsides though.

Pros

Cons

  • Upfront costs: Phones can be expensive, especially flagship ones. If you want the latest phone then you will have to pay a lot of money up front.
  • SIM must be bought separately: When paying for a phone upfront, all you get is the handset. So to be able to use it (make calls, send messages, browse the internet), you will need to purchase a SIM separately.

Choosing a mobile phone

Choosing the right phone can be tricky, especially as new handsets are released all the time. If you’ve just come out of a 24-month contract and so haven’t bought a phone for two years, there’s a decent chance you won’t recognise much on the market other than the latest iPhone.

If you do have a good idea of the type of phone you are looking for, you can compare prices for different handsets here, or look at the offerings of each manufacturer here.

If you are unsure, we have listed a few options below by price:

High-end flagship phones

These are manufacturers’ top of the range models; they usually cost more but come packed with features that will keep them current for at least a few years.

Phone Upfront price for base model Screen size Information See deals
Apple iPhone 12 Pro / Pro Max £999 / £1,099 6.1 inch / 6.7 inch Apple’s latest flagship, the iPhone 12 Pro / Pro Max comes with Apple’s latest A14 chip, 5G speeds, and 3 cameras. The only differences between the two phones is the screen size and battery life. iPhone 12 Pro deals / iPhone 12 Pro Max deals
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G £1,149 6.8 inch Samsung’s most recent flagship model is one of the best phones on the market right now, with a price point to match. It comes with up to 512 GB of internal storage, a vibrant display and impressive cameras, including a 108MP lens on the back and 40MP on the front. Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G deals
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra £1,199 6.81 inch You may not have heard of Xiaomi yet, but the Chinese firm is shaking up the UK market with it’s top-of-the-range smartphones. The Mi 11 Ultra is big, bright and powerful, but it’s standout feature is the extra screen on the back, allowing for perfect selfie snaps.
OnePlus 9 £629 6.55 inch OnePlus’s latest flagship smartphone is a lot cheaper than rival high-end models, but it’s performance is more than up to scratch to be considered a luxury Android phone. Unlike it’s predecessors, the OnePlus 9 has wireless charging capabilities, as well as an improved camera.

Mid-range phones

High end phones these days can be excessive. For most of us, a mid-range phone is perfectly acceptable – they’ll still have exceptional cameras and quick processors for the most part. These phones usually use tech similar to that seen last year, so they will be fine for most people using them day-to-day.

Phone Upfront price for base model Screen size Information See deals
Apple iPhone 12 / Mini £799 / £699 6.1 inch / 5.4 inch Both the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Mini have the same A14 Bionic processor that is seen in Apple’s flagship models, the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. The display is also just as crisp, albeit on smaller screens, but the cameras and battery life don’t quite match the high-end models. Apple iPhone 12 deals / iPhone 12 Mini deals
Samsung Galaxy S21 £769 6.2 inch While it’s not the best Samsung phone on the market, the Galaxy S21 is a more-than-capable substitute if you don’t have a grand to fork out on a phone. Galaxy S21 deals
Google Pixel 5 £599 6 inch Google’s flagship phone is a lot cheaper than its rivals’ high-end models, but it doesn’t lack too much in its performance. It’s genuinely one of the better looking phones around, and its 16MP camera is hard to beat at this price. Pixel 5 deals
OnePlus Nord £329 6.44 inch With a price as low as this, the OnePlus Nord could have been considered a budget phone, but it’s performance and design suggest it’s anything but. It comes with four rear cameras and two on the front, which is more than any other OnePlus phone, while its sleek design is impressive for such a relatively cheap model.

Budget phones

Some budget phones are actually surprisingly good, and can give more expensive phones a run for their money.

Phone Upfront price for base model Screen size Information See deals
Google Pixel 4a £349 5.8 inch Admittedly slightly expensive for those on a budget, the Google Pixel 4a is however very reasonably priced for such a powerful device. In line with other Google mobile products, it has a fantastic camera and its design is something to be envious of. Pixel 4a deals
Apple iPhone SE (2020) £399 4.7 inch Originally released in 2016, this fan favourite was given a make-over and re-released in 2020. It’s at the higher end of the price scale for budget smartphones, but its still less than half the price of Apple’s flagship models and is a good bet for loyal Apple customers. iPhone SE (2020) deals
Samsung Galaxy A51 £320 6.5 inch One of the cheapest Samsung Galaxy phones currently available, the Galaxy A51 is extremely good value. This is especially true considering its 48MP camera, something which even some of the most expensive smartphones can’t match. Galaxy A51 deals
Moto G9 Power £180 6.8 inch The Moto G9 might be one of the cheapest smartphones on the market, but that doesn’t stop it from having an incredible battery life which can last over 24 hours. However, it’s screen display could be improved, and it’s definitely on the bulkier side of current models.

Choosing a network

There are four mobile phone carriers in the UK — EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone — offering mobile and data services. Your device will ultimately connect to one of these four networks, but they’re not your only options when it comes to finding a mobile contract.

There are many, often cheaper, networks out there that are usually referred to as MVNOs, or Mobile Virtual Network Operators. There are around 60 of these in the UK and they include Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, Plusnet Mobile (all EE); giffgaff (O2); and ID Mobile (Three).

MVNOs lease mobile telephone and data spectrum from the major networks. They can offer you the service of one of the major providers at a lower cost, but are usually given less priority to main phone carrier customers; this means that if the network becomes saturated in a specific area, then MVNO customer services will suffer at the expense of main carrier customers. Be aware of this if you live in a major city or regularly go to major events with thousands of people!

Whoever you decide to go with, we recommend you investigate the following first:

Is the network available in my area?

In terms of 3G and 4G, the most commonly used wavelengths for mobile phone traffic, the main four operators cover most of the UK:

Network 3G 4G
EE 99% 89%
O2 99% 84%
Vodafone 99% 83%
Three 99% 76%

4G is generally much quicker and reliable than 3G, so we’d recommend picking a provider that offers coverage where you live.

If you are unsure whether a provider offers good coverage in your area or not, we recommend you check the provider's coverage checker first. You can check this here:

EE

O2

Vodafone

Three

Do you want 5G?

If you opt for a high-end flagship phone, it will most likely come with 5G capabilities.

But 5G is not yet available everywhere in the UK, and coverage is still relatively limited to certain pockets of large cities.

On top of this, whilst some providers offer 5G as standard with any 5G phone contracts, some providers charge extra for the privilege of accessing this network.

If you are want 5G, we recommend checking out each provider's 5G coverage map before you take out a new contract or SIM.

For more information on 5G in the UK, check out our guide on which network has the best 5G coverage.

Does the provider offer any special offers?

Mobile network providers will often try to entice you in with special offers, ranging from cashback and vouchers to special deals on data or minutes. You could also be offered a new piece of tech or a subscription to a music or streaming service.

Look out for these offers when comparing mobile networks and contracts, but remember that these deals will often change – a great offer seen today might not be there tomorrow!

Looking for a SIM for your phone

If you already have a phone and are just looking for a SIM card, you have two options. You can either take out a:

  • SIM-only contract: These range from 30 days in length to 24 months. Generally, the longer you commit, the cheaper the monthly cost.
  • Pay as you go SIM: These do not require any contractual commitment. You will need to top up as you use your phone, but some mobile carriers will allow you to purchase monthly 'bundles' of data, minutes, and text.

What else do you need to consider when looking for a new mobile phone deal?

How much data do you need?

A pay monthly contract can come with a range of different data limits, from as little as 1GB to as much as 100GB or even unlimited data.

Everyone is different when it comes to using their mobile, so the amount of data you need when taking out a phone contract is very personal to you.

It goes without saying that the more data you use, the more expensive your mobile phone contract will be, and considering many contracts can last for 18 or 24 months it is important to get this correct.

Most providers will allow you to check your previous / current monthly data usage, so we would recommend you first do this and see how much data you use(d) on your current (previous) phone.

If you cannot access this information, after you take out a contract most carriers will allow you to add on extra data each month should you require it. However, this will almost certainly be more expensive than if you were to go for a higher data allowance when you started your pay monthly deal.

For more info, read our guide on how much data do you need.

How many minutes & texts do you need?

Most mobile deals now come with unlimited minutes and unlimited texts.

This is not a rule though; with more budget leaning contracts you may be provided with a limited number of minutes or text.

What about roaming?

If you like to travel but stay connected whilst away, you should consider any data roaming charges you may incur with any provider.

Luckily, it shouldn’t cost you extra to use your phone in the EU these days, but taking it further afield can result in hefty charges if you don’t have the right plan in place.

For more information, take a look at our guide on data roaming charges.

Does the network offer any exclusive extras?

As the competition for customers is so great amongst the UK's networks, they often offer exclusive extras in order to entice customers to their service. Some of these extras include:

  • EE: 3 months free BT sport, 6 months free Apple Music, 5GB extra data if you are an EE Home Broadband subscriber.
  • O2: 6 months of either Disney+, Amazon Music, Amazon Prime Video, or Audible.
  • Three: Free roaming in over 70 destinations.

Last reviewed: 25 June 2021

Next review: 25 July 2021