According to Ofcom, 93% of people in the UK personally own and use a mobile phone. But whether you’re just entering the mobile market or are looking for an upgrade, finding the right mobile phone deals can be overwhelming.

Despite a fairly limited number of phone manufacturers and network operators, the range of handsets and contracts available continues to grow at speed. So how do you compare mobile phones to find out which is the right package for you – and avoid getting locked-in to a long-term contract for a phone you decide you don’t like?

Here are a few key areas to consider when buying your first mobile phone.

First mobile phone

How smart should your phone be?

The available mobile phone handsets can be split into two main categories – traditional mobile phones and more recent smartphones.

A traditional handset is a simple way to start making and receiving calls, as well as using text messages. But while some of these handsets include limited internet access, the majority of products available today are smartphones.

Smartphones go beyond basic calling, offering games, applications, and rich internet connectivity. So you can check your email, browse the web, and capture images and videos on the move.

While many people default to a smartphone, it’s worth considering which features you actually need. If you opt for an older handset, the cost saving could be significant.

Size matters

Even when you settle on a specific mobile phone handset, you’ll often find there are several models to choose from. In fact, this is where some of the best sounding mobile phone deals fall short.

First, many devices are available in different physical sizes. While technology trends once saw products getting smaller and smaller, there’s now a clear move towards larger handsets that bridge the gap between a smartphone and a tablet.

If you plan to work on-screen often, browsing the web or playing games, bigger could be better. Of course, if you’ll mainly be sending text messages and calling, the physical size of the screen becomes largely irrelevant.

What’s more, most phones offer a number of different storage options. Your contacts and text messages may only take up a small amount of storage space, but regularly downloading applications and saving videos will quickly see your device fill up.

Buying Smartphones

Comparing mobile phone contracts

Once you’ve decided what you want, it’s time to see where you can get it. It is possible to purchase a handset outright, with no ties to a specific carrier so you can take advantage of the best SIM deals. However, if you choose a contract plan over a fixed period of time, you will be able to spread the payments for your handset and upgrade at the end of your fixed-term.

Fundamentally, choosing a service provider means balancing cost and coverage.

Most plans include a given amount of usage, covering calls, text messages, and internet. To some degree, you should focus on getting the most inclusive usage for your budget, avoiding expensive surcharges at the end of each month.

However, you should consider coverage too – check it online at a service provider’s website. Most providers offer strong, fast connectivity in major cities, but it can be impossible to find a signal in more rural areas.

Where a provider offers high usage allowances at a very low price, this may reflect issues elsewhere in the service.

Images by Mr.Tin DC andin Jfgas, used under the Creative Commons license.