Correct as of December 2023.
Mobile phone contract, SIM-only or SIM-free?
When looking for a mobile phone deal, you have three types of contracts to choose from:
With monthly contract mobile phone deals, you pay a monthly fee in return for a new phone and an allowance of calls, texts and data. You’ll be tied to a network provider by a contract that typically ranges from 12 to 24 months. It could be a good option if you use your phone a lot or want to spread the cost of buying the latest phone.
This is typically either a one-month rolling contract or a 12-month contract that doesn’t include a new phone. SIM-only contracts are useful if you already have a phone you want to keep, but want a better price for data, texts and minutes.
You only pay for what you use with a SIM-free deal. It’s a good option if you don’t use your phone very often and prefer not to be tied to a contract, or if a poor credit rating means you can’t get a contract. You’ll need to top up your credit when you run out or you won’t be able to make calls or send texts.
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What should I look for in a phone contract?
The best mobile deals depend on how you use your phone. If you make a lot of calls, you may want a contract that gives you unlimited calls and texts.
If you tend to use WhatsApp and need constant internet access, you’ll be more interested in a generous data allowance.
When you compare with us, you can filter your options, so you’ll only see deals based on your preferences.
When looking for the best phone deals, consider:
- Calls, texts and data allowance
- Your preferred networks
- Which deals offer 5G or 4G only
- Upfront and monthly costs
- International roaming rates if you use your phone abroad.
How do pay-monthly phone contracts work?
Once you’ve found a deal you like, here’s what happens:
You sign up for a new contract – usually 12, 18 or 24 months. You’ll typically need ID, two proofs of address (such as a utility bill or bank statement) and an active bank account so you can set up a direct debit. The phone provider will also check your credit score before letting you sign up.
You pay the upfront cost (if there is one), plus a fixed amount each month by direct debit. Your monthly payment includes a service charge from your network provider and the agreed amount of inclusive calls, texts and data.
If you go over your monthly allowance you can still use your phone, but the extra usage will be added to your bill at the end of the month.
Once the contract ends, you can upgrade with the same provider or look for another deal.
Why compare mobile phones with us?
Whether you’re looking for the latest new phone, or you’re happy with the one you have and want a SIM-only deal, we can help. When you compare with us, you can:
See exclusive deals
Find exclusive deals and special offers on mobile phone deals
Shop by manufacturer or network
Save time by browsing only the brands and networks that interest you
Tailor your search
By contract length, data, minutes and more
It’s quick and easy too – you can find a deal in just 1 minute.
 Correct as of December 2023.
How do I compare mobile phone deals with Compare the Market?
We have a huge range of mobile networks, handset deals and contracts to choose from. Our comparison service allows you to find a range of mobile deals from our panel.
Choose whether you want a phone deal or a SIM-only package, then filter and choose from a variety of options to see whether there’s a deal you like. You can compare by:
- Phone contract vs SIM-only
- Phone model – including storage options and colour
- Monthly cost
- Data, minutes and text limits
- 4G vs 5G
- Contract length
- Option to include phone resellers – you can specify which resellers you can choose from, as well as the second-hand phone’s condition (new, nearly new or refurbished)
- Free gifts.
All these filtering options allow you to simply tick the relevant boxes and quickly find deals from our panel. You can then compare deals and look for one that suits you at a price you like.Compare mobile phones
Compare mobile phone brands
When looking for the best phone deal for you, it can be hard to choose between all the latest models. There are a lot of phone brands out there. So, to help you out, we’ve put together a summary of brands you can compare with Compare the Market.
The Apple iPhone remains one of the world’s most recognisable phone brands. Originally launched in 2007, the iPhone series has seen many iterations, introducing features such as Apple Pay, FaceTime, Face ID and more.
iPhones are popular because of their simplicity and compatibility, allowing you to seamlessly integrate apps and features with your other Apple devices.
As one of the leaders of the international smartphone market, Samsung offers some of the most popular phones in the world. Samsung loyalists say that it’s because the phones’ designs make it easy to multitask and use different apps at once.
Google’s Pixel series offers some top-quality specs promising fast performance and impressive photography. Pixel phones can be a cheaper alternative to the more expensive Apple and Samsung models.
Phones have come a long way since Nokia’s first model launched in 1987. It’s perhaps most famous for its Nokia 3310 series, which took the world by storm in 2000.
The firm offers top-of-the-range smartphones that boast great features and technology, as well as basic models that parents buy for teenagers or for use as a back-up phone.
Sony’s smartphone range provides something for pretty much everyone, with models offering powerful cameras and stereo, bright displays and great image quality.
Launched in 2013, OnePlus has rapidly expanded and now offers tablets and accessories as well as a range of keenly priced smartphones.
HONOR phones may have a relatively low profile, but their cameras and displays have won praise from reviewers. Prices are in the mid-range.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use handset with generous storage and long battery life, something from the Motorola range might fit the bill nicely.
Contract vs pay as you go?
If you’re after a new smartphone and want to spread the cost without having to endlessly top up your credit, a contract phone deal might be the way to go.
But if you’re happy with your current phone and use it relatively infrequently, pay as you go (PAYG) could be the best phone deal for you.
In a nutshell:
- A contract offers you a new phone, often with no upfront cost, and no worries about topping up.
- PAYG lets you stick with your current phone. This could work out much cheaper than a contract as you don’t have the added cost of a handset.
- Under a contract deal, you could be locked in for 24 months. PAYG offers flexible 30-day rolling plans, so you’re not tied to any one provider.
- Contract deals can often work out better for heavy users, while PAYG might be cheaper if you don’t use your phone much.
- Contract phone deals require a credit check, so if your credit score is low, PAYG may be your only option.
What do mobile phone tariffs include?
Mobile phone contracts vary by network, but typically include:
Choose from a set number of inclusive call minutes. Finding the right deal is important, as you’ll be charged if you exceed your limit. Your inclusive minutes won’t necessarily cover all types of calls.
4G vs 5G:
5G isn’t yet available everywhere, so check the coverage in your area before you choose your mobile package. When you compare with us, you can filter your results to show only 5G deals.
Most packages come with inclusive texts. As with inclusive minutes, you could be charged if you go over your limit.
International calls from the UK:
If you regularly call overseas, look for a plan that offers a good deal on international calls. If there’s one country you call often, see how provider charges compare for that location.
If you regularly travel abroad, you’ll have to pay roaming charges.
Those charges could apply if you’re travelling in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA), up to a limit of £45 per month.
You’ll be prevented from exceeding that amount in any monthly billing period, unless you ‘actively’ decide to continue spending.
The government’s advice is to check your phone provider’s roaming policies before you travel, so you know how much you’ll be charged. To find out more visit GOV.UK.
Most deals come with a data allowance, so it’s important to know how much data you’ll need. 1GB of data lets you send or receive around 1,000 emails and stream about eight hours of high-quality music.
Some mobile phone providers offer unlimited data deals, so you won’t need to worry about running out.
How do I find the best mobile phone deal for me?
When looking for the best phone deals, consider:
- Switching when it’s cheaper: if you’re outside your contract, you won’t need to pay a cancellation fee.
- Work out how much data, texts and minutes you need: you don’t want to pay for more than you’ll use, but going over your limits could be expensive.
- Get the right length of contract: don’t get tied into a long contract if you think that you’ll want to switch deals soon.
- Look for add-ons: if you make a lot of international calls or think you’ll need to top up your data, look for add-ons that can save you money. For example, you might be able to add on an international call bundle.
- Check the network: make sure there’s good reception in your area for the network you choose.
- Make your old handset pay: getting a new handset? See if you could make money by recycling the old one. There are many online companies that take old mobile phones in exchange for cash.
Frequently asked questions
Should I get a phone plan with unlimited data?
It depends how much you use your phone. If you’re on it a lot, it’s worth getting a plan with unlimited data. If not, a limited data plan could be cheaper.
Which mobile phone deals have unlimited data?
The leading networks, including Three, Vodafone, O2, Virgin Mobile, iD Mobile and giffgaff, all offer unlimited data plans.
Most unlimited data deals are available on a 12-month or 24-month contract. But giffgaff, iD Mobile and Voxi offer unlimited data plans on their monthly rolling deals.
Is it better to pay upfront or monthly for a phone?
Buying a cheaper phone and SIM-only deal might cost less. But if you want the latest model, a pay-monthly phone contract can be an affordable option.
Do I own my phone after the contract is done?
Yes. Once the contract’s up, it’s all yours.
Can I get a phone contract with bad credit?
It’s possible to get a phone contract with bad credit, but it might be more difficult. You may be asked to pay a deposit or provide a guarantor. You might also be restricted to lower-value handsets.
What our expert says...
“The mobile phone market is very competitive, especially when the latest phones get released. Make sure you shop around and compare deals to avoid paying more than you need to, because your loyalty could cost you. If you’re looking for a SIM-only deal, make sure you have a phone that’s unlocked, because you’ll have access to deals from every network, opening you up to far more options.”
- Sajni Shah, Utilities comparison expert