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5 August 2020
A new iPhone is never MoneySaving, but if you're determined to get Apple's latest iPhone SE, 11, 11 Pro or Pro Max ‒ or its older models ‒ this guide will take you through the cheapest ways to get one, including our pick of the best deals.
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Should you get an iPhone on a contract? Why should you never just go direct to the network? What other ways are there to get one? Our iPhone need-to-knows should help you bag a cheap deal and learn what to watch out for.
Always check if it's cheaper to buy an iPhone outright before signing up for a contract – and never go direct to the network as resellers usually offer the same deals for £100s less.
Never go direct to a network, always check mobile resellers
Buying a new handset on a traditional contract from the major mobile networks can leave you overpaying by £100s. Reseller sites such as Mobiles.co.uk* (owned by Carphone Warehouse) and MobilePhonesDirect are almost always cheaper than going direct to the network – and right now, it's cheaper to buy though a reseller than buying outright and pairing with a cheap Sim – a method that has often been the cheapest way in the past.
Buying a handset upfront and pairing with a cheap Sim
Paying for a handset outright and pairing it with a cheap Sim only deal can sometimes be the cheapest option, so it is worth checking. If you can't afford to shell out a chunk of cash upfront, consider buying your iPhone on cheap or free finance instead and then pairing with a Sim.
Consider a second-hand or refurbished handset
Don't forget to check out second-hand models on eBay* and refurbished ones directly from your network. Make sure it's unlocked (see Mobile Unlocking for full info) though, so you can take advantage of super-cheap Sim only tariffs.
See our Refurbished Mobiles guide for full information and tips.
Apple have two main payment schemes available, one is available in-store (iPhone Payments) and the other is available when buying online (iPhone Monthly Payments).
iPhone Payments is Apple's interest-free financing scheme, available in-store on the latest iPhones. It allows you to buy the phone for Apple's standard price but pay only a small amount upfront (currently £69) and then the rest in 20 monthly instalments.
Don't get caught out, though. Apple offers another plan – its iPhone Upgrade Programme – which gives you the option to swap handsets and includes AppleCare, its extended warranty and technical support service, but this scheme can usually be beaten by other methods. See our full analysis of the iPhone Upgrade Programme (the examples are old but the same principles apply).
If purchasing online and opting for iPhone Monthly Payments, you'll pay a smaller amount upfront (currently £20) and then the rest in 24 monthly instalments. For both payment schemes, you'll be credit-checked and will need to be accepted for what's technically an interest-free loan. Here's an example of what it costs when purchasing online through iPhone Monthly Payments:
If purchasing in-store through iPhone Payments, here's how to pay this way.
Once you've got the phone you'll then need to find a separate cheap Sim only deal.
If you don't get close to using your allowance of minutes, data and texts each month, you're essentially overpaying for your contract. Bust your limit, though, and the extra charges can be costly. To help you choose the correct tariff, check your actual past usage with Billmonitor, an online tool.
Billmonitor* works for customers of EE, O2, Tesco Mobile, Three and Vodafone. It's not the most user-friendly site, but it gives a detailed bill analysis. It's also accredited by the communications regulator Ofcom and will analyse your last three months' bills to determine your average usage and suggest deals based on this.
Don't overestimate how much data you need – most use less than 3GB a month.
And even though apps are becoming ever more data-hungry, don't fall for mobile firms pushing high-data deals.
Try and choose a contract with a data allowance you actually need. Plus with free Wi-Fi readily available, you may find you actually use less now than you used to.
In our last MSE poll on data use, to which almost 5,000 MSE users responded, only 10% actually used more than 10GB a month, while 68% used less than 3GB.
All iPhone models come in different storage sizes – depending on the model, they're available with 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. Generally, you'll pay £50-£200 to go up a size (if you're buying directly from Apple).
As a rule of thumb, 64GB can hold 2,000 apps, 1,600 albums or 20 HD films, which is enough for some.
Unlike most other smartphones, iPhones don't have memory card slots so you can't expand the storage if you decide you want more. However, be careful not to overestimate how much storage you'll need and end up paying for a more expensive model 'just to be safe'.
You can free up space by storing data to the cloud – this will often work out cheaper than opting for a device with more storage space. See our point below on how to back up your iPhone for free.
For even more top tips for saving storage space on your phone and paying less overall, see our How to increase phone storage guide.
Losing your data, photos and contacts is a nightmare. But there are a number of easy ways to protect your mobile and data, many of which are free.
Regardless of how expensive your phone is, the info you've got stored on it can also be mega-valuable, and it's a headache (and probably a lost cause) to retrieve contacts, photos, apps, games and messages after losing a handset.
To beat this, free services can back up this crucial info before you lose it.
Back up to 'the cloud'
This type of backup is becoming increasingly common – storing on 'the cloud' means storing your data on Apple's own servers, allowing you to free up space on your phone. Set it to back up automatically each day and you'll always have a backup of your phone should the worst happen, or you just need to free up some storage space. Apple's cloud-based service iCloud allows you to back up phone settings, photos, apps and your Apple Music Library.
If you choose to back up your photos/videos to the cloud, you can free up space on your device by selecting the 'Optimise iPhone Storage' in your settings.
To do this, click Settings > select your name at the top > iCloud > Tap Photos > Choose Optimise iPhone Storage.
Having your photos/videos in their original, high-resolution form on the cloud frees up space on your phone, but don't worry, you can still view them on your phone in high-res whenever you like.
Take a look at this step-by-step guide on Apple's site on how to back up data to the web with iCloud. Storage costs vary depending on size, but currently it's £0.79/mth for 50GB, £2.49/mth for 200GB and £6.99/mth for 2TB. While not free, it'll often work out cheaper doing this than opting for a phone with bigger storage.
There are other free apps available such as Dropbox or Google Photos, which allow you to transfer content from your phone to 'the cloud' – where your files are stored digitally – which can then be securely accessed from any device.
The old fashioned way – with a cable
If you don't want to pay for Apple's iCloud service or register for the free online cloud platforms, you can still take advantage of the traditional way of backing up your iPhone, via the USB cable and its iTunes application. Take a look at the step-by-step guide on how to back up data using your computer on Apple's site.
The quality of the signal you'll receive will depend on where you are. Across all the networks, big cities and towns should have a decent 4G signal – 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 4G is the most up-to-date – and unbiased – coverage info we've seen. View its mobile checker to see what signal strength is likely to be in your area.
Accidents can and do happen. Because mobiles are worth so much these days, if you lose 'em, break 'em or have 'em nicked, it can be costly to replace them.
Insurers play on this fear with hefty prices and unnecessary cover. Yet you can get insurance for your iPhone from £80/year. Read our full Mobile Phone Insurance guide for more info and best buys.
Report it to the police and let your network know ASAP. This is important to prevent unauthorised use of your phone, and may also be critical for insurance claims.
Watch out for auto-insurance
Some retailers automatically add insurance to a mobile phone contract when you sign up online, whether you want it or not.
This has stung quite a few MSE users, so be sure to read all the small print, thoroughly, before clicking the 'buy' button.
These insurance policies are normally more expensive than standard insurance, and if there's no 'opt out' option, you must remember to cancel it as soon as you get your phone.
If you cancel over the phone, ask the company to email you with confirmation of the cancellation, so you have it in writing too.
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, your network will be frantic to keep you, so it's the best time to haggle. Long-term customers have a better chance of success here.
Our poll showed the best mobile providers to haggle with are EE and Vodafone. See our Mobile Phone Haggling guide for help with getting a better deal. Bear in mind though it's usually harder to haggle on a contract for a new phone, particularly if you're after the latest model.
It's often possible to grab extra cashback on top when you sign up for a mobile contract. To get it, you need to sign up via a specialist cashback website rather than directly with the network provider or mobile reseller. 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, so 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 our Top Cashback Sites guide.
Retailer cashback. Don't confuse cashback sites with cashback you can get directly from a retailer, usually through redemption. This kind of cashback isn't straightforward, and can often require you to send several copies of your monthly bills on certain days.
We usually steer clear of these deals, unless it's sent out automatically.
Now you know the cheapest ways to buy a new iPhone, there are a few final things you need to be aware of...
Under rules from the communications regulator Ofcom, mobile networks are permitted to increase your monthly tariff price at the rate of inflation each year, but only if their T&Cs state so before you sign up. Sadly all the major networks have such terms, including EE, O2, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.
Changes are usually made in accordance with the Retail Prices Index (a measure of inflation) between February and April each year. Occasionally some firms will choose not to exercise this right, but this year we've so far seen price rise announcements from all of the biggies, including EE, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, O2 and Three.
Most providers will carry out a credit check, so if you tend to struggle getting credit, you may want to check your credit score before applying for a mobile contract.
MoneySavingExpert.com's free Credit Club gives you your free Experian credit score and credit report. While it won't tell you for definite whether you'll pass a credit check for a contract, it will give you a general idea of whether you'll be seen as a good or bad credit risk.
If you think you're unlikely to pass a credit check, or tried and were declined, it could be better to opt for an affordable handset and pair it with a pay-as-you-go Sim instead.
The deals here and on most comparison sites are geared towards new customers of the relevant network. If you're already with that network, even if your existing contract is up and you try to get the deal, then technically you'll be 'upgrading' rather than taking out a new contract, and you may have to pay more as a result.
Of course, you can still get the deal if you take out a separate new contract. But if you do, frustratingly you won't be able to transfer your existing number across to your new phone directly.
There is a way round this, though it's a bit of work. You can get the deal on a separate new contract, and also get yourself a free pay-as-you-go Sim from a different network.
Port (ie, move) your existing number across to the free pay-as-you-go Sim, then port it again to the new contract once it's been set up. To port your number over you'll need to request a porting authorisation code from your provider.
The majority of phone contracts which include a handset are paid for monthly over a two-year period, meaning the handset is paid for at the end. Though the handset has been paid for, most providers continue to charge the same monthly price after the initial contract period is over, meaning in effect you're paying for the phone again.
To avoid this, make a note of your contract end date, and remember to contact your provider one month before it ends to give it notice, which means you're free to leave or change deal. If you're happy with your phone, consider switching to a cheap Sim only deal or see our top tips for haggling a new deal.
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Apple's latest model is the 'budget' iPhone SE – see iPhone SE specs. While new iPhones are never MoneySaving, the iPhone SE is considerably cheaper than any other newer models. To help, we've rounded up a selection of deals below that come with at least 3GB+/mth data, as this is enough for most people according to our most recent data usage poll.
Right now, the cheapest way to get the iPhone SE with enough data for most is this 4GB data deal on EE via Fonehouse. It's £70 upfront, then £21/mth, making it £574 over the two-year contract – about £200 cheaper than grabbing the same deal direct from the network.
If you need more storage, you can get the 128GB model for £55 more over two years – also with 4GB/mth of data. It's with EE, via Mobiles.co.uk, and is £125 upfront, then £21/mth.
Apple's latest flagship iPhone 11 was launched back in September last year – see iPhone 11 specs. It's not cheap, but you can still save by going through resellers rather than direct to the networks. We've rounded up a selection of iPhone 11 deals below that come with at least 3GB+/mth of data, as this is enough for most according to our most recent data usage poll.
Right now, the cheapest way to get the iPhone 11 with enough data for most is this 5GB data deal on iD Mobile (uses Three's network). It's £50 upfront, then £33/mth, making it £842 over the two-year contract – saving £350+ compared with the same deal direct from the network.
For those who need more phone storage, you can get the 128GB model, with 4GB/mth of data. It's with EE, via Mobiles.co.uk, and is £420 upfront, then £21/mth, making it a total £924 over the two-year contract.
|iPhone 11 Pro 64GB*
|iPhone 11 Pro 256GB*
via Affordable Mobiles
|iPhone 11 Pro Max 64GB*
|(1) All come with unlimited mins & texts unless stated otherwise. (2) All contracts are over a two-year period.|
Sometimes you can save a bit if you don't want the latest model, so we've rounded up the cream below. While they might not be as new and shiny, they still run Apple's latest iOS 13 operating system. We won't include all the older models here, but we'll include ones when they're competitive on price.
One of the cheapest deals we could find for an older iPhone model is this iPhone 7 (released 2016) deal with iD Mobile. It's £21/mth over the 24-month contract with nothing to pay upfront. If you want something slightly newer, there's the iPhone XR which was released back in 2018.
Some mobile resellers no longer have stock of the older iPhone models, but if you're determined to get an older model, you may find it cheaper to get a refurbished iPhone. See our Refurbished Phones guide for more. Many refurb sellers provide guarantees on their products, meaning you're covered if there's a technical fault. Refurbs may work out cheaper when paired with a cheap Sim. See our Cheap Sim only Deals guide for more.