Whether you have had ten phones or none, once in a while you’ll come to a point where you need to consider your usage of your phone, and review your choice of handset & price plan. From experience, I have found most mobile phone retailers very helpful, though some just want to sell you the biggest package possible for their own commission. Here I will hopefully help you out by raising the most important questions you NEED before you buy!
1: Do I need to get a fixed contract?
First of all when taking out a fixed contract, usually between 12 and 24 months in length, the first thing to consider is ‘have I got a steady, reliable income?’ – this is essential as you will need to commit a good chunk of your income to a regular payment. If you have never had a mobile phone before I suggest you start with a Pay as you go tariff, as within a couple of months you should have a good idea of your usage habits. If you have already had a Pay as you go phone, and you regularly top-up more than £20 a month, you can usually get a great deal and get more for your money by signing into a contract. Remember, go for a modest contract if you need, you can always raise your tariff later.
2: What kind of price plan should I go for?
Most Pay as you go providers offer very competitive price plans, and the great thing about PAYG is that you have no commitment, but if you regularly make phone calls and use mobile web, I really recommend some type of contract price plan. Being in a contract does not necessarily mean you will be tied to your phone & plan for months on end, many providers now offer a ‘rolling, monthly’ contracts, in which you pay a regular direct debit, but can opt out in a months notice. You will, on the other hand, always get the best deal on fixed contracts over 12 months.
Another common misconception is that you will need to change your handset when you start a new contract – sure, one of the great things about starting a new contract is that you are offered a whole host of new handsets, seemingly free of charge (nothing is free...), but the reality is you will get the very best contract deals if you don’t opt for a new handset.
3: Smartphone or dumbphone?
Plain and simple here, Iphones, Androids, Modern Symbians, Blackberries etc. all have one thing in common – They’re all very smart. If you are not one for social networking, and you check your email inbox less than once every other day, do yourself a favour and go for a ‘dumb phone’, such as a Nokia or other ‘Candy bar’ style phone. Where I stand against poor quality sub £30 handsets as they’re generally more trouble than they are worth, you don’t need a hyper-fast processor and touch-screen of you only talk and occasionally text. Another fact is you will get a better contract deal if you go for a more modest handset. Do you have Facebook, twitter etc?? You know is you do, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go for a flagship model. Most phone manufacturers make decent mid-range handsets, going for one of these will save you money.
4: Extras Extras Extras!!
When you’re speaking to the charming young lady or gent in the phone shop, take some time to think about the extras you are being offered, there are tons of extras such as ‘extra data allowance’, ‘inclusive 08 numbers’ and international calls packages usually in £5 per month blocks. At the time, these all may sound very handy, but the cost does mount up, and as I have found, there are a lot of boundaries included. If you have a landline, international calls are cheaper anyway, 0845 & 0870 numbers are free on most landline phones, and if you feel you will need extra data allowance, can this not be solved simply using wifi??
Insurance is another thing altogether, handset insurance can cost you anywhere between £5 and £20 a month. Sales reps will try their hardest to sell you insurance until they are blue in the face, but another sad truth is, there’s usually a high excess to pay in the (unlikely) event of misfortune, and many banks offer free handset insurance with packaged accounts. Also, independent insurers now commonly offer ‘Gadget cover’ which offer protection over all your gadgetry – including your laptop, mp3 players and other devices you may use outdoors.
5: Pimp my phone!
The last thing, when it comes to buying a phone, is customising/protecting it with a case, silicone cover, screen protector etc... The best advice I can offer is to buy online. Stay away from retail outlets as they will overcharge massively, we’re talking 10x the online prices.
Any questions?? Follow me on @virtuoso666 on twitter, feel free to ask anything gadget related.