How to get a smart deal on your smartphone

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FULLY UPDATED: 2017

Iona Bain

A lacklustre smartphone market?! A booming trade in second-hand phones?! A move towards sim only deals? These are words I never thought I’d write on the Young Money Blog. But a lot has changed in the six years since I started this whole shebang. No longer is it a given that people will pay over the odds for smartphone contracts just to get their hands on the latest divine creation from Apple.

Consumer group Which? reckons that nearly half of us waste an average of £92 by staying on contracts that are WELL unsuitable. Thankfully, young people are being a whole lot cannier in how they procure a smartphone these days, whether it’s paying less for a refurbished handset, recycling old phones to offset the cost of newer models or just hanging onto the thing for a bit longer to get proper value for money.

This trend is partly down to a law of diminishing returns with new phone models, where fewer exciting and original features are expected with each launch, and also an inevitable bite on living standards from inflation, causing some to question why they are paying so much for what most consider to be an essential.

The first thing to note is that you can almost certainly get a better deal if you go sim only and buy your phone second-hand, as I explained in this blog. A refurbished phone sold through a respected seller has to go through rigorous checks to make sure it is in full working order. A word of caution; I was unfortunate enough to get a slightly dud Samsung model after buying it second-hand from eBay (albeit through a top-rated seller which I used before, and since, with no problems). It couldn’t seem to connect to 3G no matter what I tried, and I just didn’t have the time or inclination to go to the official Samsung repair centre for a fix that may or may not have been possible. 

However, I can’t say this is necessarily representative of the refurbished experience – far from it. You can go through a supplier such as Envirofone to be on the safe side. And picking up a warranty will give you peace of mind so you can get your money back if something isn’t right with the device.

Suppliers will have to grade the phone on its physical appearance alone. Naturally, you’ll pay more for “as new” compared to “good” condition, which will have some minor wear and tear (could you possibly bear it???)

Smartphones depreciate in value pretty quickly, so you can grab a good bargain if you buy a relatively new model second-hand, with some of the most popular smartphone models losing 70 per cent of their value within a few weeks of purchase (man alive).

As of May 2017, a good sim-only deal might cost £16 a month for 5GB of data and unlimited calls. For the same deal with a new iPhone 7 on a 24 month contracts, this could easily rise to £58. 

Plus, this is SOOOO the right option for all you green warriors. Recycled phones reduced your carbon footprint, prolong the lifespan of existing models and generally put a bit less strain on this poor little planet of ours. Yes it’s a small link in the chain but boy does it all add up!

Here are my additional tips on getting a smart deal on your smartphone;

Figure out what you want from your phone

First thing to do when deciding on mobile phone deals is to look at your previous bills and examine how you used your phone (assuming you were on a contract). Did you use up your texts or minutes? Go over or even fall short? If you are obsessed with your phone and constantly use it to go online, you will probably need a longer contract that can give you a generous or unlimited data allowance.

Consider the merits of different long term contracts – comparison websites can help you find the right deal

Compare and contrast what the 12 month, 18 month and 24 month contracts can offer you. Most mobile phone providers offer free smartphones on long-term contracts (long-term is generally considered 18 months and over) as most people can’t afford the upfront cost of smartphones (£600 or over) and it locks customers into a deal that prohibits switching to rival providers too frequently. As a rule, longer contracts tend to have lavish allowances, but 2 years is still a long time in the world of technology and consider whether you will want the same phone and contract for that long.

Read the price plan details on internet usage to get an approximation of what the MB allows you

Note that video content is at a premium because it uses up more data. Before you check out the top 100 dancing cat videos on YouTube, bear this in mind.

Divide the monthly totals for internet GB, minutes and texts by 30 to get a rough daily amount allowed for each area

The monthly totals obviously sound like a generous amount but if you calculate how much you are given in each area every day, it all comes out in the wash. You have to make sure your contract is giving you the right amount in the right areas.

For instance, if your package is 200 mins and 250MB internet usage a month, the offer boils down to around 6 minutes call-time a day and allows you roughly 25 website views and the possibility of sending and receiving 80 – 85 emails a day.

Keep within your limits or be prepared to upgrade/switch

It sounds obvious, but you can easily surpass the limits on your contract and add pounds to your bills. If you’re really committed to a bargain deal, make notes on how much you text and phone during your contract and be prepared to upgrade or switch if you need to. And always negotiate with your existing provider before taking the ball off the pitch and ditching your contract; they are more than likely to offer you a sweeter deal in return for your loyalty.

Remember to switch to WIFI where possible and save your data usage

A final but vital point for all you social media junkies; make sure you switch the settings on your phone to take advantage of free WIFI and avoid eating up vital GB usage.

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