Compare mobile phone brands

How many times have you patted yourself down before leaving the house to check you’ve got keys, money, phone? The fact that our phones go pretty much everywhere with us shows just how much we rely on them. So it probably won’t surprise you that 93% of us have a mobile phone. But a mobile phone isn’t just a phone nowadays and those of us with smartphones (71%) are using our phones to shop, watch TV, take selfies and catch up via social media (actually calling someone is so passé). Whether we like it or not, mobiles are here to stay and they’re an integral part of modern life so having the right one and the right package is vital – so what’s on offer?

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Staying mobile

A mobile phone isn’t just about how good the handset looks, your phone actually needs to have reception, so making sure you choose the right network should be number one on your priority list. There are four main network operators in the UK that own and maintain the mobile phone infrastructure – Three, O2, Vodafone and EE – between them, they manage the magic that makes your mobile work.

But many of us won’t be signed up to one of the big four – there’s a huge amount of smaller mobile providers out there known as MVNOs (mobile virtual network operator) such as Giffgaff, Tesco, Asda and Virgin mobile, even the Post Office has a piece of the mobile pie.

These guys don’t have their own mobile towers and infrastructure so what they do is rent network coverage from one of the big guns. This is all well and good you might think, but what does it have to do with getting reception? Well, quite simply, if you know you don’t get coverage from say, Three, then there’s no point in getting a deal with a network operator that uses their infrastructure. So, if you want to know who’s in with who check out our Guide to mobile network operators (trust us, it’s more interesting than it sounds).

Who are…Three?

When Three launched in 2003, they were the mavericks of the mobile phone world – they were all about doing new stuff – like basing their entire network on the power of wireless internet; that means anyone with a Three package uses at least 3G (or third generation mobile technology). They’ve also differentiated themselves by offering free roaming abroad in a long list of countries – a key benefit if you live a jet setting lifestyle.

But tech waits for no man (or mobile phone operator) and Three are powering forward with 4G – even faster wireless internet access from your phone. Having 4G means you’ll get the internet quicker, smoother and better than on existing 3G networks.

Who are…O2?

If you remember when mobile phones had aerials, you’ll probably remember that O2 used to be called BT Cellnet way back in 2002, but they’re now owned by Telefonica. O2 offer great all round customer satisfaction, with 80% of their customers happy with their service, according to Ofcom. And if you’ve got a problem, then according to 51% of customers, it’s usually resolved first time around. O2 claim to have 98% 3G coverage throughout the UK (on par with Three and EE). You also become part of O2 Priority, where O2 offers you the competitions and deals – all just for being their customer.

O2 have an ambitious strategy and have planned to invest £3 billion over five years into upgrading their entire network. Plus, in order to give the best possible coverage to their customers, O2 even share mobile masts with Vodafone, allowing customers of both providers to enjoy even greater coverage.

Who are…Vodafone?

Vodafone go way back and are one of the largest mobile providers in the world, they’re active in 26 countries and have nearly 444 million customers around the globe. They were also the first provider to introduce (analogue) pay monthly packages in 1996. They were named number 1 mobile network in the UK and London at the Mobile Benchmark Awards 2016.

Vodafone covers about 90% of the UK with 3G and 65% with 4G, they also came joint second with Three in terms of overall best customer service based on research collected by Ofcom.

Like O2, Vodafone are investing heavily and have set aside £1 billion to update their mobile and fixed line networks and are working hard to push coverage to even more rural communities.

Who are…EE?

EE are part of BT and are a rebrand of the Orange and T-Mobile brands that used to exist in the UK. EE boast that they have the largest and fastest 4G network in the UK giving 97% of the population access to super-fast internet on the go. It also offers the fastest 4G speeds in the UK – with an average speed of 22 Mbps. This beats the average of 17Mbps and is the fastest of the big 4 providers.

EE are also spending big – about £1.5m a day to ensure that no one misses out – even rural communities. 

Which contract is right for me?

You don’t have to be tied to a monthly contract if you don’t want to; but they are good if you want the latest phone as the cost of the handset is usually included in the overall price.

But if you’re always on the lookout for the best deal in terms of minutes, texts and data, then consider a SIM only package. With a SIM only, you’ll be tied in to a provider for just for a short period of time – typically, one, three, six or 12 months; after that you can go elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you only use your phone once in a blue moon then a pay as you go (PAYG) phone might be the best and most economical option. If you’re still undecided, you can find out more in our simples guide to SIM only vs contract phone packages and once you’ve done that, find out what tariff might suit you.

Ok, so what about the actual phone?

The best mobile phone brand for you will be the one you’re happiest using. For some, the best brand will be the one that’s the latest and most wanted – like your iPhones. Others might prefer something just as technologically good but not pay a premium for the iPhone label, in which case you could consider a Samsung.

But if neither of those big-name phone brands float your boat, why not go a little off piste and see what Sony are doing (it’s not just TVs they make) or take a punt on a Huawei or an HTC The point is, the phone that’s right for you, will completely depend on how you use it and what you use it for. If you only ever make the occasional voice call and send the odd text message, then a super duper 4G iPhone 7 means you could have forked out for something ten times more expensive than you need. So, do your wallet a favour and take a look at what’s on offer – afterall, we assume that’s why you’re here at comparethemarket.com