Friday, 1 February 2013

10 Tips for Buying a New Mobile Phone

So I finally got round to replacing my battered mobile...
(This is a continuation of my previous post: Coming to the End of My Mobile Phone Contract)
I'd been keeping an eye on the prices for a couple of phones over the last few months, hoping the contract rates would drop in the New Year.
It seems to me that newer models, and more fashionable models are often sold at prices that are a little over the odds, but then that's business for you. If there's the demand for a product, the price will go up!
So what did I do in the end?

Well firstly, there's several ways of buying the same phone, with the same contract in the UK, (and I suspect elsewhere too), so the first thing was where to buy my new mobile.
There are 5 networks in the UK to choose from, and they all have slightly different things to offer. For example, Orange (now Everything Everywhere or EE) are the only network who currently provide 4G capability, however, upon checking, it appears their 4G is only available in 3 big cities at the moment, and their customer service is risible, (their complaints rate is 3 times higher than all the other providers!!). Then there's "3", who are the only network to offer unlimited data in their contracts, everyone else has caps on theirs.
Look into your chosen provider's customer service ratings.
I really liked the sound of unlimited data, as it's one less worry, but then these contracts were of course, more expensive, so I downloaded an app to measure exactly how much data I got through in a month. Then I proceeded to tweet, facebook, browse, read the papers etc. etc. with wild abandon.
Turns out, even with all that, I only use about 200Mb a month. The rest of the time, when I'm at home or in the office, I use wi-fi. So I guess, unlimited data is a luxury that I wouldn't need. To be on the safe side, I've decided to go for a plan with 500Mb or more included. I also noticed that several providers offer "bolt ons" that mean you can access wi-fi free when you're out and about as well, and I also logged how long I spent on the phone. With so many plans available, it makes little sense paying for more than you need, so: Measure how much data/minutes/texts you use and buy a contract accordingly.
Then there's where I live. Out in the Peak District, in a valley. Yeah, my signal sucks big time. So I checked out all the providers who helpfully provide maps of their signal coverage. All you have to do is put in your post code and have a look at your house.
Unfortunately, every provider's coverage is "total pants" in my area, despite having 3 masts nearby. At least it made choosing a network easy - basically anyone except Orange... so onto what phone to buy.
Check your chosen network's coverage before buying.
The first time I got a smartphone, I was truly shocked by the pathetic battery life these things have, so I buy aftermarket high capacity batteries, and carry a spare around in my wallet when out and about. On the other hand, the quality of phone cameras these days is stunning, so there are benefits. More importantly, with bigger screens, ever growing mobile browsing, and the range of apps available, it's now distinctly possible to write and run a blog, plus all the associated email/social media using just your phone. And yes, I do a lot of my blog admin on the go, (I still have a proper job you know...).
So, in my case, wanting a top of the line mobile, is not just a case of naked consumerism, I genuinely use my phone for a lot more than simply calls and texts.
With this in mind, I'd been looking at the Galaxy Note and it's slightly smaller sibling the S3 by Samsung, as these seemed to be the most powerful handsets available. I dismissed Apple's products out of hand straight away, because, although they are very good, Apple products are always sold at a premium over anyone else's, and there are many cheaper phones that do the job just as well.
The problem is, Samsung is flavour of the month and these 2 mobiles are being sold at a premium too. In fact, in my previous phone themed post, I mentioned screenshots of the deals available. I've been back and revisited them and the prices have changed maybe 50p to a £1 in some cases, but the rest remain unchanged, and that's over 2 months of looking.
What I didn't know, because you don't see them everywhere, is that there are quite a few other quad core mobile phones with similar performance specs floating around, and as they are less loved for one reason or another, their makers can't charge as much for them or they just wont sell. The LG Nexus 4 for instance... Google are selling these direct (when they're in stock, but that's another story), SIM free for half of what other people charge for their phones, and you can also find them on contract at low rates too, so it seemed like a no brainer. Same power, less money. I guess what I'm trying to say is: Don't buy the flavour of the month, look for unloved handsets with the same spec, as they'll be significantly cheaper. - (this applies to SIM free and contract deals).
The state of British retail is appalling. Why would you buy from a physical shop when you can get everything cheaper over the internet? I raised this point with the girl in the 3 shop, and her reply was "Service! What if your handset goes wrong?", at which point, I remembered how incredibly helpful and accommodating (NOT!) my current supplier had been when I'd had problems... Oh well, internet it is then.
What I didn't realise the last time I bought a phone is that there are many online aggregator websites for buying mobile contracts on. I used which were far cheaper than going direct. My contract was £21.50/mth, phone free, with O2. Direct with them the equivalent contract was also £21.50, but they wanted £110 on top for the handset. Their cheapest free handset rates were £29/mth for this phone, so quite a saving really, and I'm sure the website get a commission too, so: Buying direct from the network provider is always more expensive. I suspect that's true in other countries as well.
Using Your New Phone
When I bought my last phone, I also bought a "Rambo" case with it. This consisted of a rubber sheath, which fitted inside a hard, polycarbonate, outer case. It protected my phone well, and I did drop it a lot, although I'll be much more careful with the new one. However, I used that case to make a solid mounting for my phone in the car for trackdays, but didn't replace it. If you're interested, I use an app called aLap recorder for filming my lunatic antics behind the wheel.
At the time, my phone still looked like new, even after a year's use, but now, well it certainly looks it's age, so: Always get a decent case to physically protect your phone.
But what if something DOES go wrong...?
From my experiences of "customer services" and having to send my phone back for (non) repair, the best thing is to make sure you have adequate insurance.
There's several options here. Your provider will often offer you insurance at the point of sale, but in my experience (and I worked as an insurance broker), this is almost always overpriced, besides which your house insurance will often include cover for smartphones these days at no additional cost. However, with your house insurance, there is a drawback. In the event of loss or damage, do you want to make a claim on your house insurance for such an invaluable item? Depends on how important the phone is to you I guess...
Your third option is taking out a bespoke gadget insurance policy separate to your home insurance. Obviously shop around for the best deal, but also be aware of what is or isn't covered. Water damage is something that is very common and should be included - sometimes phones get damaged simply by being used when it's raining, but then there's other points to watch for. For example, theft cover can be quite complicated, as an insurer is never going to cover a theft where the phone is left unattended, and frequently, theft from home won't be covered either, the reasoning being that your home insurance should cover this.
The final option is to "self insure", or basically put a little money aside each month, whereupon, if your phone breaks or goes missing you simply use the money to buy a new one. This is the cheapest option and there won't be any quibling over a claim! The only real drawback being if something happens very shortly after purchase, you won't have much put aside.
Managing your Information
Your phone carries a lot of personal and potentially valuable data. OK, so there are now many apps out there that enable you to remotely find your phone if you lose it, or wipe the data if it's stolen, and your phone manufacturer will often also let you register for this as a service they provide.

Set up your phone for location retrieval and/or remote data wipe
That's all well and good but what people really want in this event is all their pictures (some treasured memories) and the like returned, which usually isn't possible.

I've had problems losing pictures myself, with malfunctioning memory cards. Now I use services like google's Drive or Dropbox which give you free cloud storage, and the option to automatically back up your photos as soon as you take them. You can set them to only backup over wi-fi to save data costs. I also save all my contacts to google as well, so I will still have all my telephone numbers. This last point also means it's easy to transfer my contacts to my new phone.
If you want to check out Dropbox, you can sign up to a free account. Please use this link here: - by doing so, I will have an extra 500Mb added to my account - share it with your friends and you can get the same benefit too.
Lastly, nearly all mobile phones can now be connected quite simply to a PC using a USB lead, and the manufacturers all provide free file management software. Set a monthly (or more often if you prefer) reminder in your phone then: Backup your phone regularly.

In Conclusion

A smartphone is often a valuable object both monetarily and emotionally. Taking simple steps like these could remove 99% of all the problems and pitfalls of mobile phone ownership and make your life much less stressful if the worst should happen to your phone, and it doesn't take much effort to set up.

Once it's done - it's done, and as you're already online: Don't put it off, do it now!


  1. I think you are probably most likely to save money on the contracts themselves rather than optimizing on the device purchase. Looking at aggregators or MVNO's as we call them in the US can save you big. Prepaid devices can also work out quite economical as well.

    1. Thanks for coming back, appreciated!
      Perhaps I should have been clearer. (I might throw in an edit)
      When you take a contract you are in fact paying for the handset anyway. Because of this, unloved phones are far cheaper on contract too, than flavour of the month phones, for the same mins/texts/data

    2. Thanks Integrator, I've decided to edit the post as well

  2. Thanks for sharing, very useful information for everyone. I used buy my phone without looking any of these. But after using three months I realized that I have spent 1000$ only for my data usage. So, after that I always look for phone with huge data scheme.

    1. Sounds like you need to use wi-fi more for your data use. I use this app to find free wifi when I'm out and about - and I do certain other activities, such as caching my local area with google maps - this does 2 things for me, it reduces my data use, and also means I still have access to the map when I get no signal.
      For other apps, such as newspapers, I set them to update about 7am via wifi when I get up, so I can read the news on the bus to work, without wasting more data again...


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