iPhones aren't MoneySaving, so amid the hype it pays to carefully consider which is the right deal. Read the Cheap Mobiles guide for cheaper options before taking the plunge.
Our iPhone comparison tool trawls the web for the latest online deals, helping find the cheapest tariff for your usage. For extra help, see the picking the right contract section.
Looking for a Samsung Galaxy phone? Check out our Samsung comparison tool to find the cheapest deal for your usage.
Warning! This table is automatically generated. Please double check prices before signing up – email us with any problems, suggestions or missing tariffs.
Warning! The results table is automatically generated. Please double check prices before signing up – email us with any problems, suggestions or missing tariffs.
The differences between the latest model of the iPhone, the 5, and its predecessor, the 4S, are pretty slim. So if you're thinking of taking the plunge and getting a new iPhone, save yourself a packet by opting for the iPhone 4S, as contract prices and PAYG handset prices have dropped dramatically.
Here's a brief summary of what's new with the iPhone 5:
When it comes to saving on contract deals, the key is to get out as early as possible, as iPhone contracts are usually more expensive than their non-iPhone counterparts.
An average user wanting 250 minutes, 250 texts and 500MB of mobile data would pay over £12 more per month for the cheapest iPhone 5 16GB deal compared to the same on the cheapest Samsung Galaxy S III deal.
So, remember these five golden rules:
Shorter is cheaper. Signing up for a 12-month contract often works out cheaper overall, as it gives you the freedom to switch sooner, to either a Sim-only or PAYG deal. Be aware that 12-month contracts come with a hefty upfront cost, though.
You can spread the cost of the handset. If you can't stump up the cash for the phone, then a longer contract means lower upfront costs. Do look at overall value though (and if you don't have the cash, should you really be getting an iPhone?)
Get the right tariff. Analyse how many minutes, texts and how much data you're likely to use to get the right tariff. Aim to match your usage to the free allocation. Get too much free and you're overpaying on the contract, too little and the over-quota is costly. If you're new to smartphones, expect to use much more data than before.
Do you need the latest iPhone? iPhone 4 and 4S prices have fallen considerably since the launch of the iPhone 5. As the iPhone 4S and 5 are similar, the iPhone 4S may be perfect for your needs, at a cheaper price.
Refurb or second-hand? Don't forget to check out second-hand models on eBay* and refurbished ones directly from your network. Ensure it's unlocked (see Mobile Unlocking for full info) though, so you can take advantage of super-cheap Sim-only tariffs.
Both the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S will now be sold as standard with iOS 6 - the latest version of Apple’s swish operating system. This means they’ll both have the same set of features, including iMessage, iCal and Siri.
So, if you've already got an iPhone 4S, it's easily upgradeable to iOS 6, meaning you needn't fork out for the new model (which isn't actually that different to its predecessor).
4G is a lightning-quick internet connection for mobile devices, which will allow you to surf the net on your phone at expected speeds of up to 20Mb. The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone model to have 4G connectivity, however, it can't be used at the moment in the UK, as no network providers offer the service as yet.
The new EE network - created by the Everything Everywhere group, which includes Orange and T-Mobile - says its 4G service will be available in "coming weeks" however, making it the first UK network to offer the high-speed mobile internet service.
So far no other providers have outlined any details of their 4G services, or when they will be offering them (if ever).
Therefore, unless you're an early adopter who must have 4G access as soon as it's available, it's probably wise to hold off switching to an EE tariff when it launches. You may find yourself locked into a long tariff that isn't the cheapest on the market.
Daring to be different, Apple went against the grain with its iPhones, designing them to take a smaller Sim card.
For the iPhone 4 and 4S (and its iPads), Apple adopted the smaller-than-standard-size micro-Sim.
Only the size is smaller though; the chip on the card remains exactly the same as that on a standard Sim, meaning those handy enough with a pair of scissors can cut a standard Sim down (as shown in TechRadar's guide) to use in an iPhone 4 or 4S, at their own risk of course.
With the launch of the iPhone 5 came the arrival of a yet smaller Sim card. Apple has sliced the edges right off the already-tiny micro-Sim, slimming it down to the new nano-Sim. Because it's a lot smaller, if you have an iPhone 4 or 4S you won’t be able to simply swap Sim cards.
If you're upgrading from another handset to the new iPhone, you could ask your network provider to exchange Sim cards, or try one of their shops, which should be carrying stocks of nano-Sims soon.
Smartphones are fast becoming the norm and if you use your phone to constantly search the web, you need to watch the amount of data you use. As more data-hungry apps are released, it's fair to question whether you'll chomp through your data allowance quickly each month and wind up paying a wedge for more.
For checking emails, looking at Facebook and watching the odd YouTube video, 500MB should be more than enough. To give you a rough idea, one of our techies, MSE Joe, has an iPhone 4 on Orange with a data allowance of 750MB/month. He doesn't use even half of this, averaging about 350MB of data a month using Spotify, Twitter, Facebook and email apps. He doesn't watch any videos, however. Downloading videos, TV shows or other web-heavy apps may take you over your limit and incur heavy charges.
If you're worried about data use, try using the free Onavo app mentioned below.
The vast majority of iPhone tariffs come with around 500MB of data a month. This is quite a lot. For example, Vodafone suggests 500MB will let you read and reply to approximately 100 emails, view 92 BBC News stories, and browse around 44 mobile web pages every day.
However, heavy downloaders who go over this could end up forking out loads in charges - especially if using your phone to surf the net while abroad (see the Data Roaming guide).
If that's you, try free iPhone app Onavo, which compresses data when web-browsing and using other apps such as Facebook and Twitter. This means the same amount of surfing will only use a fraction of your data allowance, avoiding any hefty fees.
Onavo says it can reduce data usage by 80% (we've not been able to verify this yet, but please leave your feedback in the Onavo forum discussion) and is secure as it doesn't store any of your info. It works in 90 countries, so can help minimise expensive roaming rates too.
What does it do? It can compress data for the following, meaning you use less MB:
What does it not do? There are a number of things Onavo cannot compress, crucially:
How much does it cost? It's available free for iPhones at the moment, but Onavo says it will eventually start charging a subscription for new and existing users. This means you may have to cancel in future if you don't want to pay.
The quality of the 3G signal you'll receive will depend on where you are. Across all the networks, big cities and towns should all have a decent 3G signal, while those in rural areas can struggle.
All the networks have coverage checkers on their sites, but these tend towards optimism. Ofcom's research into 3G constitutes the most up-to-date objective info we have on coverage - view its 3G coverage map to see what signal strength will be like in your area.
Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) deals are great if you don't want to be tied into a long contract and to only pay for what you use, though you'll pay a hefty upfront cost.
As there's no contract (where the networks make their money) attached to PAYG handsets, the difference in price is pretty slim. The key question if you're planning to grab one with a Sim-only deal is how much it'll cost to "unlock" your handset from its pre-set network provider. For more info, see the Mobile Unlocking guide.
Below is a table of what's available for PAYG iPhone 4 and 4S handsets:
|Current PAYG iPhone deals|
|iPhone 4S||iPhone 4|
Got an iPhone 4 or 4S? If you're out of contract, you could stand to make serious savings by switching to a Sim-only tariff.
The main benefit of switching to a Sim-only tariff is that you won't pay an extra monthly cost for a handset — so your tariff price and overall costs will drop significantly.
This is the ideal option if you've got an iPhone 4 or 4S and aren't fussed about upgrading to the 5. Though you may still be tied into a contract, you'll be free to switch your handset whenever you want (so you can get a PAYG iPhone 5 when the price comes down).
Below are the networks' best Sim-only offerings. Remember the iPhone 4 and 4S use a micro-Sim but the 5 uses a nano-Sim, so ensure you order the right one.
Our top pick Sim-only deal, Giffgaff*, offers a £12/mth pay-as-you-go option with 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited mobile data. Tethering is not allowed, however.
Giffgaff uses O2's network, so is available in most of the UK, but Sims will only work in phones that are unlocked or on O2. So if your phone is locked to Vodafone for example, you will need to get it unlocked to get Giffgaff to work in it.
Giffgaff Sim cards now come as "snappable" dual Sims, so they will work in phones which require a micro-Sim, as well as mobiles which just require standard a Sim.
Giffgaff does not offer nano-Sims yet, but there is a guide on its site that shows how to cut a micro-Sim down to size. It's a bit fiddly (harder than trimming a standard Sim down to micro size), so it may be worth asking one of the Giffgaff forum community members to do it for you.
T-Mobile's basic Sim-only* deal costs £8/month on a 12-month contract. You'll get 300 mins to UK landlines and mobiles, 500 mins to T-Mobile phones, 5,000 texts, and for £2/mth extra, get the Basic Internet (250MB/month) add-on.
Sims are available in standard, micro and nano sizes.
Three* has a competitive Sim-only deal. For £25/month on a one-month rolling contract, you get 2,000 minutes, 5,000 texts and unlimited "all-you-can-eat" mobile data.
It's often possible to grab extra cashback on top when you sign up for a mobile phone contract. Yet to get it you need to sign up via a specialist cashback website rather than directly with the network provider. Cashback websites use affiliate links to generate revenue, so if they get paid when you sign up, you'll get paid.
Unfortunately this cash is never guaranteed, as sometimes cashback sites don't "track" deals in progress, therefore it's generally best to pick the right tariff first and view any cashback as an added extra. To find out more about how these sites can pay you, and how you can make the most of them, read the full Cashback Sites guide.
In some cases, you may earn more cashback by getting the same deal from a retailer than going via a cashback site. For example, a tariff on Orange may get you £50 cashback by signing up via Quidco, but the same Orange tariff may be available through Carphone Warehouse, and pay more cashback.
There's huge demand for second-hand iPhones, so it's very much a seller's market. Therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, eBay* should be your first port of call if you're willing to put in a bit of (virtual) legwork. At the time of writing, an unlocked 16GB iPhone 4S in decent nick could fetch around £300.
The simple route
If you want a guaranteed amount of cash to put towards your next handset (or something else entirely), mobile recycling sites are the easiest option. To save you the hassle of going door-to-door, the following links take you straight through to our MobileValuer tool's iPhone results. Just click on the model below to get the current prices from all the top payers.
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