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How to arrange a mobile phone in the UK

A mobile phone is an essential accessory to most people these days and the good news is that there are many, many ways to get your hands on one.

This article will look at the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods you can follow to get yourself in contact.

The questions to ask yourself

This is the starting point, because there are so many deals and options when it comes to finding your phone that the unwary buyer can soon get lost in the range of possibilities.

What do you want from your phone? Is it simply a device to send and receive calls and texts? Or do you want Internet access? Will you be watching films and video and running lots of apps or will you require the ability to have the occasional browse?

  • What is your monthly budget? This applies if you wish to sign in to a deal for your phone.
  • Check coverage. If you’re going to be living and working in a city, then there will be no issues, but coverage is variable in different parts of the United Kingdom, with some service providers offering better coverage than others.

Buy outright

This is the most obvious way to go, but it is not necessarily the best. However, if your usage is going to be quite low and you do not need many extras on your phone, then buying a basic phone and sim card with Pay as You Go options will work well for you. Phones can cost from as little as £10 or £20 new and with the various Pay as You Go options you could end up paying as little as £20 a year for your phone use.

Older people often simply want the security of a mobile in their home, should they fall, or not be able to get to a landline. Others might want a phone to keep in the car for emergencies. Or, perhaps, a back-up family phone and in these cases, buying outright and getting a sim card is probably the best option.

These phones are readily available cheaply from most supermarkets but, as always, it is worth shopping around and seeing what deals are available. Also, check the conditions on your sim card; some will charge for unlocking, which can be an unwelcome surprise.

Get a contract from a shop

Phone shops can be found in most shopping centres and high streets. From these, it is possible to buy a phone outright, get a sim card and use as Pay as You Go. It is also possible to buy the phone but take out a usage contract. Thirdly, you can take out a contract without owning the phone.

Any kind of contract is likely to be between one and two years, but do be careful on the details. The lower priced contracts will often give only minimal usage in a month. If you are streaming videos or such like you will need around three to five GB of data per month. Anything less than this and you either won’t be able to access the internet or the costs will be astronomical, with most companies charging daily for going over your data limits.

Phone companies in the UK do not have the best record for customer service and getting in touch to pursue a complaint or change your deal can be very difficult.

Owning your phone outright with a contract attached will usually result in an up-front charge but a lower monthly rate. This kind of deal is often used for older phones and models soon to be replaced.

The third option from the shop is to pay more for a contract, but get a phone to use for free. Ensure though that your phone is insured, especially if it is an expensive one, because you will be liable should your phone be lost, stolen or damaged. Generally, it is best to avoid insurance offers from the shops themselves, because these are often expensive. Putting a phone on household insurance often makes more sense.

As a guide, a reasonably up-to-date phone, such as an iPhone SE, with enough monthly data, is likely to cost around £30-35 per month.

Get a deal online

Often, this is the cheapest way to get a good deal. The options are similar to those for shops, so we will not go through them, but just ensure that you are clear what you are getting and you are certain that there are no hidden costs to face.

Final advice

The phone you get will really depend on your needs. The infamous ‘Nokia Brick’ does a perfectly good job for its purpose and there is no point spending lots on an expensive Galaxy if you do not need data or internet access. Unless you’re wanting your phone to make a fashion statement.

Shopping around is best advice. Having a look at is a great starting point to help you weigh up costs and options.

Once you have a good idea of what you are after, have a look on a comparison site for the best deals. Something like is a great place to look, although many other sites operate.

Finally, when you are ready to buy, or sign your contract, haggle. Then, haggle again. The phone companies will use all kinds of discounts to get your custom – the market is very competitive – but you will need to fight to get them.

The TransferGo Blog regularly publishes articles aimed at making life in a new location a bit easier, including our Living Abroad Series, which offers help in obtaining driving licenses, health insurance and other essential services.


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