How to compare mobile phone deals

Customers who need a new handset as well as a new mobile plan can use our comparison tool to help them compare mobile phone deals and find the best value plans for them.

If customers are looking for the latest handsets on pay monthly or pay as you go tariffs, our comparison tool allows customers to pinpoint the best mobile phone deals.

All the main network providers are covered in our comparison checks, along with a range of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).

This allows customers to explore the best plans and tariffs in one central location.

Filter options are available to narrow down mobile deals by model or manufacturer, or just look for the best value deals.

Using the Choose tool to compare mobile phone deals is completely free and designed to show as many mobile deals as possible.

We aim to cover as much of the market as possible, including the major networks of O2, Vodafone, EE and Three. Along with this, we cover MVNOs BT Mobile, Sky Mobile, iD Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile.

All our data is frequently updated to ensure that bestselling handsets and the best value mobile deals are available via our site.

All deals found on the Choose site are ordered by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

While we may receive a small referral fee if customers opt for any of the mobile phone deals found via the Choose website, we are 100% independent and not owned by any of the companies we list.

Customers using our comparison tool and accessing the best mobile deals available is also a charitable act. Choose donate 5% of our profits to charity.

Learn more about our chosen charity for this year here.

Is there any difference between the mobile networks?

All networks have their strengths and weaknesses. You might find that the handset you prefer is only available on one network or that coverage is patchy in your area.

Coverage is one of the most important factors when choosing a mobile network, so be sure to check that there is effective coverage in the locations you'll be using the phone most frequently such as home and work.

Networks will have their own coverage checkers but check independently too, especially if you live in a rural area where 4G mobile data plans might be difficult to obtain.

Choose regularly updates our guide on rural coverage to see which networks are most widely available based on official figures.

Along with coverage, pay attention to out-of-plan costs on mobile data, calls and texts. These can sometimes be prohibitive, especially if you opt for one of the cheaper tariffs to balance out choosing one of the best handsets.

If you're considering an MVNO, these are often cheaper than the main network providers.

However, remember that price isn't everything and assess their customer service record, along with the coverage offered by the provider whose infrastructure they use.

Neither the main network providers nor MVNOs have a monopoly on quality customer service, so be sure to look up their recent record and, crucially, find out what customers were complaining about.

Finally, some networks have offers that allow customers to use services such as social media apps and streaming services without it using up their data.

If such services are appealing, check the different networks for what data exemption offers they currently have.

How much mobile data will I need?

Measuring your data requirements can seem tricky and that's why many people choose pay monthly mobile deals with more data than they need.

As tariffs can increase drastically when more data is added to the plan, it's worth measuring your usage properly before committing to any plan.

The first thing to do if you're currently on a pay monthly contract is to log in to your provider account and check how much data you're using on your existing plan.

If you have several GBs of data left over at the end of the month, you won't need to increase your data allowance with your next phone, and you may even be able to lower it.

For customers who don't have an existing contract or haven't been using data in the way they want to, you can work out your typical usage requirements by working out what you want to do with your data.

Customers who stream films and television shows already know that they need more data than those who simply check their email and browse the internet.

As a guide, streaming one hour of video on a service like Netflix or iPlayer would use upwards of 600Mb of data, while streaming an hour's worth of music would use around 80MB.

While overestimating your usage could cost you extra each month in unused data, choosing mobile deals with less data may backfire too if you run out and are forced to buy add-ons or accept out-of-plan usage fees.

How do I order a mobile phone deal online?

Ordering a mobile phone deal online is straightforward and can be done through the links to the deals on our website.

Once you've selected your pay monthly plan, you'll be taken through a checkout process similar to the one used when you buy anything online.

Purchasing a phone and pay monthly contract online does not automatically cancel your previous contract with a different provider or transfer your number across.

Mobile phone companies usually ship new handsets as a matter of priority and allow you to track the status of your order.

You might choose to have your new phone delivered to the network's store in your nearest town or city.

In this case, you'll likely receive a text or email when your order is ready to collect and will have to take ID with you to prove your identity when you pick the handset up.

If you buy online and have the handset delivered to your door, it will be via a courier to ensure its safe delivery and it must be signed for upon delivery.

Depending on which courier service your network use, there may be additional tracking options offered by the courier as well as the tracking service offered by networks on the status of your order.

Many mobile phones purchased online are delivered to customers the next working day.

Is there a credit check on pay monthly contracts?

When a customer chooses to buy a pay monthly phone, they are subject to a credit check by the network.

Many of the bestselling handsets are worth a great deal of money, so it's important for networks to know that the person they're selling to has a good credit history.

The information you supply as part of your online purchase will be used to instigate the credit checks on your name.

For instance, your current name and address will be verified by cross-referencing with the electoral roll to see that you live there.

Licensed credit reference agencies will then be consulted who have access to details of your identity and credit history to help make a final decision.

Your credit score will be checked, and your application will go through automated decision-making systems that will flag up whether there is an issue with your application.

Any debts and repayment issues will be identified, and this will allow networks to quickly assess your creditworthiness.

Remember that sharing a financial link with a partner or ex-partner could also impact the success of your credit check.

If there's an issue with your credit referencing when you buy online, the network will usually call you on the phone number you supplied to explain or to ask further questions.

It's important to note that many of these decisions are automated and based on information that networks have on your credit history.

As such, if you're rejected due to bad credit, it's unlikely that an employee would be able to override this decision.

The footprint of the check will also reside on your credit record, so it's not worth going through the credit check if you already suspect you'll fail.

There are several credit referencing sites which allow you to check your credit status without putting a footprint on your record.

In addition, cheaper handsets often require a less stringent credit check, so if you're willing to look beyond the bestselling handsets, you might be successful.

How do I switch mobile phone networks and keep my number?

Many customers who switch to a new network want to keep their number. There is a straightforward way of doing this.

Once you've received your new handset, you'll need to call your previous network provider and ask for your PAC (Porting Authorisation) code.

If your contract with the previous provider has lapsed, this can be difficult, so carefully planning your switching period is useful to ensure continuity for your number.

Along with this, ensure that you have fulfilled your contractual obligations with your previous provider and don't cancel any direct debits until an account is fully settled.

A PAC code is valid for 30 days and each network provides instructions on their website about how to transfer a number across.

Often, the process can be completed by the next working day, but there are exceptions to this so don't assume this will always be the case.

The new number that came with your new handset can be used as a handy temporary number until your existing one is transferred over to your new network.

Networks are obliged to offer this porting service and to make it accessible to their customers.

If you have difficulty obtaining a PAC code, make an official complaint to the network you're leaving using their complaints procedure.

You can also report them to the Ombudsman Services who help resolve complaints in the communications sector.

Can I still get a listed deal if I'm already on the same mobile network?

Networks like to keep customers and so they generally offer discounts to customers upgrading via their own systems.

That means that some of the deals you find on our website might not be available to existing customers.

There is good news in one respect - if you check what upgrade deals your current network provider is offering for some of the latest handsets, you'll work out whether you could get better value elsewhere.

Some networks bank on their customers deciding that leaving is too much trouble and that they won't bother looking around for better deals.

So, some customers may be shackling themselves to existing customer deals that are inferior to the ones they would get as a new customer elsewhere.

It pays to do your homework and to check using our comparison tool whether switching will get you the best mobile handsets at the best prices.

Don't try and game the system by cancelling a contract with a mobile network with the intention of signing up for a new one with the same provider straight away.

Many networks only allow customers to sign up for some of their deals when a certain amount of time has elapsed between a customer leaving and returning.

What happens when the minimum term contract expires?

The minimum term for the pay monthly contract you sign up for is generally 18 to 24 months for the bestselling handsets.

At the end of this period, you should really act to ensure that you either switch to a SIM-only plan if you're happy with your phone or obtain a new phone through upgrading or switching.

If you don't change deals at the end of your pay monthly contract, you could end up paying far more per month than you need to.

Remember that mobile phone deals are essentially split into two elements - the amount you pay for the device and the amount you pay for the data, calls and texts you use.

The minimum term covers what you owe the network for the handset, but it automatically morphs into a 30-day rolling contract at the end of the minimum term.

So, despite having paid for an element of the contract, your monthly payments won't automatically decrease, and that's what leads to customers routinely paying more than they need to.

Ofcom are regulating to examine whether mobile networks can be compelled to automatically move customers to a cheaper deal once the minimum term expires.

For now, though, the best thing to do is keep track of your pay monthly contract expiry date and get ready to compare mobile phone deals as soon as it's up.

Compare mobile phone deals