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At a glance

Compare phone contracts or SIM-only deals in a matter of minutes

Filter your options so you only see the deals that interest you

Choose from a huge range of mobile networks, handset deals and contracts

Mobile phone contract, SIM only or SIM free?

You have three choices when it comes to mobile phone contracts:

  1. Monthly contract
    Monthly contract mobile phone deals see 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 12-24 months. It can be a good option if you use your phone a lot, or if you want to spread the cost of buying the latest phone.
  2. SIM-only deals 
    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. Find out more about  the  pros and cons of a SIM-only deal.
  3. SIM-free deals
    Here you only pay for what you use. 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 you can’t get a contract due to a poor credit rating. You have to top up your credit when you run out, otherwise you won’t be able to make or send any more calls or texts. 

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What should I look for in a phone contract? 

Think about how you use your phone. If you make a lot of calls, you might want a contract that offers unlimited call minutes and texts. If you’re more of a WhatsApp user and need constant internet access, you’ll be more interested in a generous data allowance. 

When you compare with us, you can filter down your options, so you’ll only see deals based on your preferences. 

When looking for the right deal, 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 frequently use your phone abroad.

How do pay monthly phone contracts work? 

Once you’ve found a deal you like, here’s what happens: 

  1. You sign up for a new contract – usually 12, 18 or 24 months. You’ll typically need to show two proofs of address (like a utility bill or bank statement), proof of ID and have an active bank account so you can set up a direct debit. The phone provider will also check your credit score before you can sign up.  
  2. You pay the upfront cost (if there is one), then 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. 
  3. Once the contract comes to an end, you can choose to upgrade with the same provider or look around for another deal.

New contract deals vs upgrade deals? 

If your contract deal includes a handset, you’ll have paid it off and own it outright at the end of the contract. You can then decide whether to keep the phone and look for a SIM-only deal or upgrade to a newer model. 

In most cases though, an upgrade with the same provider can be more expensive than a new contract. On the upside, as an existing customer, you can usually upgrade to a new handset with no upfront cost, and you shouldn’t need to go through a credit check again. If you’re happy with your current provider, don’t be afraid to haggle for a cheaper tariff. Providers often reserve their best deals for new customers, but they might be prepared to price match for existing customers. Do your research and check out the latest deals, so you’ve got some leverage to use when negotiating a new contract.

Why should you compare mobile phones with us? 

If you’re one of the 95% of UK adults who own a mobile phone, and you’re in the market for a new contract, we could help. We have a huge range of leading networks, mobile phone deals and contracts for you to choose from. 

Whether you’re looking for the latest iPhone, Samsung, or other Android device, or you already have a handset you love, compare phone deals, including monthly contract and SIM-only deals, and find the right one for you

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 the right phone with the right package for your needs. You’ll first choose whether you want a phone deal or a SIM-only package, and from there, you’ll be able to filter and choose from a variety of options to find the best fit for you. You can compare by:

  • Phone contract vs. SIM only
  • Phone model – including storage options and colour
  • Network
  • 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

With all of these filtering options, you can quickly find the right deals for you after ticking the relevant boxes. From there, you can compare deals and choose the one that fits you best at the cheapest price. 

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Compare mobile phone networks

At Compare the Market, we help you compare the latest deals from a wide range of phone providers. This includes the big four: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, as well as medium and smaller suppliers, such as BT and Tesco mobile.

The network operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – estimate they provide outdoor mobile coverage to between 98% and 99% of the UK’s homes and businesses. But you might get less reliable coverage if you live in a rural area.
We’ve included some information on some of our biggest partners, but you can find a full guide to mobile network operators that we compare here.

BT mobile

BT Mobile is powered by EE’s mobile network. It was among the first networks to adopt 5G.


EE was the first network to support 5G in the UK. It offers some of the best mobile rewards, including free access to a range of media and content apps.


Giffgaff has established itself as one of the UK’s largest mobile operators outside of the big four.
Phones include pre-owned options, which can be great for saving money. Giffgaff’s flexibility is highlighted by its monthly rolling plans.


The second largest mobile network in the UK, O2 was also among the first networks to adopt 5G. It’s famous for its ‘priority’ offers, which include a huge range of benefits, like free trials, discounts and competitions, as well as priority access for tickets to concerts and events at O2 venues.

Three (3)

Three offers some of the most widespread 5G coverage in the UK. It specialises in data plans for unlimited browsing, while other plans include a ‘Go Binge’ feature, which allows you to stream content from a range of apps, including Netflix and Apple Music, without eating into your data limit.


The final ‘big four’ network, Vodafone offers 5G coverage in selected locations. It also offers a wide-ranging rewards scheme. ‘VeryMe Rewards’ provides weekly benefits and freebies, including small gifts like free food and drink at selected partners, but can stretch further to exclusive ticket access for live events, for example.


As the mobile network that promises “endless social media”, Voxi is big on data. This includes massive data plans, all the way up to unlimited, but also offers the ability to browse specific social media apps without eating into your data limit at all. These apps are Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook Messenger.

Compare mobile phone networks

Compare mobile-phone brands

There are a lot of phone brands out there, so, to help you out, we’ve put together a summary of all of the different brands that you can compare with Compare the Market.

Apple iPhone

With the launch of its new iPhone 12 range, the Apple iPhone remains one of the most recognisable phone brands in the world. Originally launched in 2007, the iPhone series has seen many iterations, introducing features such as Apple Pay, Facetime, Face ID and more. Apple iPhones are popular because of their simplicity and compatibility, allowing you to seamlessly integrate apps and features with other Apple devices you own. With the new iPhone 12 range, Apple’s premium phones now support 5G for lightning fast internet, and are boasting the “fastest chip in a smartphone” with the A14 Bionic.


As the leader of the international smartphone market, Samsung offers some of the most popular phones in the world. Their Galaxy series offers a range of models to suit your needs, with ultra-high specs that push phone technology to new heights. They’ve even embraced the new foldable touch screen trend with their Galaxy Z Flip. Most recently, their Samsung Galaxy S21 range offers their fastest ever chip, along with key features including a 108MP camera, 8K video support and a super smooth 120Hz refresh rate.


Google’s Pixel series offers some top-quality specs, as well as integration into a number of Google’s other systems, including Google Stadia for gaming, and infinite cloud storage through Google Photos and Google Drive. Also, Pixel phones are often a cheaper alternative to the more expensive Apple and Samsung models.
The latest Pixel 5 model boasts a 48-hour battery life, and also offers wireless charging and Battery Share, which allows you to charge your phone using another friend’s Pixel. And, with Google Assistant, you can manage your daily tasks and take control of your phone, even when you can’t get your hands on it.


While it may have appeared as though they came out of nowhere to overtake Apple as the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, Huawei have been around for decades. Founded in 1987, this Chinese telecoms firm has extended its reach throughout the western market in recent years to become a major player. Their P40 range has very impressive specs that rival other market leaders such as the latest Samsung Galaxy and iPhone models.


HTC is a popular phone brand that is always looking to innovate. It was the first to integrate hands-free Amazon Alexa support, and its Edge Sense feature was the first of its kind. Edge Sense allows you to interact with your phone, simply by squeezing it, creating new ways to interact with your device. It also boasts special technologies for both its screen and speakers.


Alcatel offers a wide-range of phone models. You can find models with the latest specs, like a 13MP camera with HDR and a HD screen, and basic models that are convenient for younger or older members of the family, those who like fuss-free phones, or for people who simply need a back-up handset.


Since taking the market by storm in the early 2000s with their RAZR model, Motorola have established themselves in the international phone market. In 2020, the RAZR was relaunched in a big way, with the famous flip design being reworked to include a foldable touch screen, embracing the new wave of phone technology, with impressive specs to match.


Phones have come a long way since Nokia’s first model launched in 1987. Most famous perhaps for their famous Nokia 3310 series, which took the world by storm in 2000, Nokia are well-known for their reliability and excellent construction. You can get top-of-the-range smartphone models that boast some of the latest features and technology, as well as basic models that act as an excellent back up phone, boasting fantastic battery life and durable design.


Sony’s smartphone offering provides something for pretty much everyone, with its Xperia series offering ultra-fast phones with the latest specs, as well as much more budget-friendly models that still perform really well. Its new Xperia 1 III is 5G-ready and includes camera features that take phones to a new level.

How to get a cheaper mobile-phone deal 

Not bothered about the latest iPhone or Samsung, and don’t need a lot of data allowance? There are some great deals out there to suit all budgets. 

  • As well as the big-name networks, take a look at some of the smaller providers – they often have cheaper deals.
  • Think about what you really need – why pay for a larger data allowance if you hardly ever use mobile broadband Work out the minutes, texts and data you typically need, so you won’t end up paying for more than you use or risk going over your limit each month.
  • Take advantage of limited promotions and sales. For example, you can often find some great mobile phone deals on Black Friday, while some deals offer decent cashback incentives.
  • If you want a smartphone for less, consider a refurbished phone. They’re almost like a completely new phone, and most come with a warranty, but this depends on where you purchase the phone – so do check.

Contract vs pay-as-you-go? 

If you’re into the latest smartphone models and want to spread the cost without having to continually top-up your credit, then a contract phone deal may be the way to go. But if you’re happy with your existing phone and are a relatively light user, pay as you go (PAYG) could work out cheaper. 

In a nutshell: 

  • A contract gives you a new phone, often at no upfront cost, with no worries about topping up your credit.
  • With a PAYG deal, you can use your existing phone, so it can work out much cheaper than a contract plan as you haven’t got the added cost of an expensive handset.
  • Under a contract deal, you could be locked in for as long as 24 months. PAYG offers flexible 30-day rolling plans, so you’re not tied into any one provider for a length of time.
  • Contract deals can often work out better for heavy users, while PAYG may be a cheaper option if you’re a very light user.
  • Contract phone deals require a credit check, so if your credit score is low, PAYG may be your only choice. 

Find out more about SIM-only and PAYG deals vs contract phone packages

What do mobile phone tariffs include? 

Mobile phone contracts vary by network, but typically include: 

Inclusive minutes: You'll get to choose from a set number of inclusive call minutes. This is where finding the right deal is really important, as you'll be charged if you exceed your limit. Be aware that not all types of calls will be covered by your inclusive minutes. 

International calls from the UK: If you call overseas frequently, then look for a plan that offers a good deal on international calls. If there's one country you call often, see how different providers' charges vary for that location. 

Travelling abroad: If you travel overseas often, you'll have to pay roaming charges. Since Britain left the European Union on 1 January 2021, those charges could now also apply when travelling in the EU and the European Economic Area, up to a limit of £45 per month. You’ll be prevented from exceeding that amount in any monthly billing period when using your phone within the EU and EEA, unless you “actively” decide to continue spending. 

Government advice is to check the roaming policies of your mobile operator, before you go abroad, so you’re aware of what you may, or may not, be charged. 

You can visit GOV.UK for more information. 

Data: 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 around 10,000 emails and allows you to stream about eight hours of high-quality music. Some mobile phone providers do offer unlimited data deals, so you won’t need to ever worry about running out.

4G vs 5G: This is a decision more and more phone users are facing. As 5G begins rolling out further, phone deals with 5G are becoming increasingly common. 5G is a new generation of mobile network which, while not available everywhere yet, makes previous data speeds look slow. Find out more about 5G

Inclusive texts: Most packages come with a number of inclusive texts but, just as with inclusive minutes, you could be charged if you go over your limit.

How do I find the best mobile phone deal? 

Switch when it’s cheaper: If you’re outside your contract, you won’t need to pay any 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 remember that going over your limits could be expensive, as you’ll be charged for using extra.  

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 may 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’ve chosen. 

Make your old handset pay: Getting a new handset? See if you could make money by recycling the old one. There are many online-based companies that take old mobile phones in exchange for cash.

Frequently asked questions

Do you have to pay for a phone contract upfront?

Not always. There are plenty of deals available at no upfront cost.

Should I get a phone plan with unlimited data?

It’s worthwhile if you use the internet a lot. If not, a limited data plan could be cheaper.

Is it better to pay upfront or monthly for a phone?

Buying a cheaper phone and a SIM-only deal might cost less. But if you want the latest flagship model, a pay monthly phone contract is an affordable option.

Do I own my phone after the contract is done?

Yes. Once the contract’s up, it’s all yours.

Do phone contracts impact your credit score?

Paying on time could help improve your credit score. Likewise, late and missed payments will damage your score.

Holly Niblett

From the Digital team

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."