iPhones aren't MoneySaving, so it pays to carefully consider which is the right deal. Whether it's the iPhone 5S or 5C you're after, our tool trawls the web to find the cheapest tariffs. For extra help, and information on the older iPhone 4, 4S and 5 handsets, see our top iPhone need-to-knows section.
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.
Apple unveiled its latest iPhones - the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C - last year, and both are available to buy in-store. Outright, prices start from £549 for the iPhone 5S, and £429 for the iPhone 5C.
But which phone is best? And how do you choose the right contract? Our iPhone need-to-knows should help you decide, as well as giving you some tips on selling your old phone and getting the most out of your current tariff.
Should I get an new iPhone and if so, which?
iPhones are popular and well-reviewed, but they aren't cheap - so getting one is a decision you should weight up carefully.
The physical differences between the 5S and 5C and their predecessors the 5 and 4S are slim. Here's a brief summary of the newfeatures:
iPhone 5S. The iPhone 5S is a step up from the iPhone 5 and comes in silver, gold and 'space grey', with a faster A7 chip, a better camera, a fingerprint sensor and an M7 motion co-processor, which can be used with several new fitness apps.
iPhone 5C. The 5C is supposed to be Apple's MoneySaving option, though you may well argue that no iPhone is cheap. It's slightly cheaper (£120 less for the 16GB model compared to the 5S) with hardware specs equivalent to the iPhone 5, but the 4G capability of the 5S and colourful plastic casing.
Both phones come ready with the latest operating system, iOS 7, which has a host of improved features. These include updates to its personal assistant app, Siri, and the new iWork suite (Apple's version of Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel). iOS 7 is also available on older iPhones and iPads through a free system update.
iPhones 5/4S/4. There's also the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, if you don't mind not having the very latest handset. As these are older, the price is cheaper than the latest models. However, there is less stock of these phones so you may have to spend some time searching to get one. If you can't buy the phone through a provider, a second-hand unlocked model might be your best bet and with this it's possible to use a cheaper Sim-only tariff.
We search the internet daily for the top tariffs on the iPhone, and there are a lot fewer tariffs available for older models - we currently only have the latest iPhone 5C and 5S listed in our tool.
How do I pick the best contract?
When it comes to saving on contract deals, it's generally best to get out as early as possible, because as soon as it ends you're free to switch to a cheaper Sim-only deal.
So, remember these five golden rules:
Shorter is usually cheaper. Signing up for a 12-month contract often works out cheaper overall. It also gives you the freedom to switch sooner, either to a Sim-only or pay-as-you-go deal. But 12-month contracts generally come with a hefty upfront and monthly cost.
You can spread the cost of the handset. If you can't stump up the cash for the phone outright, a longer contract means lower upfront costs. Look at overall value - and if you don't have the cash, have a look at other, cheaper brands on the market.
Get the right tariff. Analyse how many minutes, texts and how much data you're likely to use each month, then match your usage to the new tariff's free allocation.
Get more inclusive calls, texts and data than you use and you're overpaying on the contract - but get too little, and the extra quota is costly. If you're new to smartphones, expect to use much more data than before.
Do you need the latest iPhone? Older iPhone prices have always fallen considerably after a new launch. Therefore it's usually better to wait to get a better price if you're not bothered about a brand new phone.
Refurb or second-hand? Don't forget to check out second-hand models on eBay*, and refurbished mobiles directly from your network. They need to be unlocked (see Mobile Unlocking for full info) though, so you can take advantage of super-cheap Sim-only tariffs.
4G offers a lightning-quick internet connection for mobile devices. You’ll be able to browse the web, download music and movies and play games on your phone at speeds up to five times faster than 3G.
However, it’s still a relatively new technology, and therefore a bit more expensive than 3G. The table below shows the lowest monthly cost for a 4G plan for the iPhone 5S:
|Lowest monthly cost 4G plans for the iPhone 5S 16GB*|
|Contract length||24 months||24 months||24 months||24 months|
|*last updated April 2014|
To get a superfast connection as well as being in an area that can receive a 4G signal, you’ll also need a 4G tariff and a 4G-compatible handset. Most providers have 4G coverage checkers online so check if you'll be able to recieve it before buying. If you often travel around the country, it's also worth checking where else in the country you'll be able to get it.
Important. Because of the way retailers give us data for the iPhone tool, we’re unable to specify whether a tariff is 4G or 3G. If you’re looking for a 4G tariff, click through and check first.
How much data is enough?
Smartphones are fast becoming the norm. 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, browsing the internet occasionally, looking at Facebook and watching the odd YouTube video, 500MB/mth should be 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/mth. 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.
Most iPhone tariffs come with around 500MB of data a month. This should be enough for a typical user and 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 a huge amount in charges - especially if using your phone 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. You'll need iOS 6.0 or later to get it.
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 it 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:
- General web browsing
- Many apps such as Facebook, Twitter
- Downloading emails/email attachments.
What does it not do? There are a number of things Onavo cannot compress, crucially:
- Apps or internet sites that stream content (where you watch a video or listen to music directly via a website) such as BBC iPlayer or YouTube.
- VoIP apps such as Skype or Viber, which you use to make calls via the internet and video calling services.
- Downloading music, games or videos to buy.
- Uploading content, such as photos to Facebook.
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.
Which network has the best coverage?
The quality of the 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 - and some may have 4G - while those in rural areas can struggle.
All the networks have coverage checkers on their sites, but these tend to be optimistic. 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.
Haggling on monthly mobile phone contracts can slash the price you pay. If you have a contract deal and you're nearing the end of your fixed term, the network will be frantic to keep you, so it's the best time to haggle.
Our poll found the best mobile providers to haggle with are Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and Orange. See our guide on How To Negotiate to help you get a better deal.
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. So if you're handy enough with a pair of scissors, you can cut a standard Sim down (as shown in TechRadar's guide) to use in an iPhone 4 or 4S - this is obviously at your own risk.
With the launch of the iPhone 5 came the arrival of a yet smaller Sim card - the "nano-Sim". This is also used in the iPhone 5C and 5S. 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 have nano-Sims available.
What's the best way to sell my old iPhone?
There's huge demand for second-hand iPhones, so it's very much a seller's market. 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 5 in decent nick could fetch around £250.
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.
Already got an iPhone? 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 is that you won't pay an extra monthly cost for a handset - so your tariff price and overall costs will drop significantly.
Alternatively, if you're looking to buy a new iPhone and have the cash for the handset (£549 for the iPhone 5S, and £429 for the iPhone 5C) it's worth considering.
Below are some of the top Sim-only offerings.
Giffgaff*Cheapest rolling Sim-only deal
Our top pick Sim-only deal, Giffgaff*, offers a £7.50/mth rolling option with 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 250MB mobile data. Tethering isn't allowed, however.
Giffgaff offers a range of bundles or 'goody bags' on a month-by-month basis, giving you maximum flexibility. It 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'll need to get it unlocked.
Giffgaff now offers two Sim sizes: standard and nano. If you need a micro-Sim (for the iPhone 4 or 4S) then order the standard Sim. These are "snappable" dual Sims, so they will work in phones which require a micro-Sim, as well.
Three Mobile*Cheapest contract Sim-only deal
Three's basic Sim-only* deal costs £6.90/month on a 12-month contract. You'll get 200 mins to UK landlines and mobiles, 5,000 texts, and 500MB of data.
Sims are available in standard, micro and nano sizes.
Tesco Mobile* has several competitive Sim-only deals. For £15/month on a 12-month contract, you get 1,500 minutes, 5,000 texts and 2GB mobile data. It's available for both standard and micro-Sims.
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.