Christmas Gifts: Festive phone-buying

A mobile makes a great gift. But which tariff is best?

Derided by some and desired by others, the mobile phone was one of the most popular gifts last year and looks set to top the tables again this season. There is no doubting the value of mobile phones: for many of us, they are indispensable. But there are few other gifts that are so difficult to choose and - potentially - so expensive.

The price for the phone on the ticket is just the starting point. At the very least, anyone who owns a mobile phone will have to pay for calls, and those calls can be as high as 50 pence per minute. Pick the right deal, though, and it can be almost as cheap as the phone at home.

Mobile phone companies sell their services in two ways: with a contract, or a "pay as you go" deal. Contracts last for 12 months and charge a monthly fee; this almost always includes a fixed amount of calls. The mobile operators bill subscribers for any extra calls they make once the "free" minutes are used up. The networks - Orange, Vodafone, One2One and Cellnet - usually charge a connection fee, normally around pounds 35. The phone, though, can be very cheap, if not free, as the networks subsidise the cost.

Pay as you go phones cost more, but there is no subscription. Instead, users buy vouchers to make the call and, in most cases, to keep the use of their number for incoming calls. Calls on pay as you go packages are higher, too, although the networks offer deals with low off-peak charges which can be an attractive option.

Recently Virgin Mobile has entered the market with a deal which is effectively a hybrid of the two systems. Virgin Mobile users pay more than contract users for their phones, but there is no monthly line rental. They can use vouchers to call, or opt for monthly bills.

A further variation on the theme is the boxed set, where buyers pay for the phone, the monthly line rental and connection in one go, with charges for any extra calls.

Pay as you go phones, Virgin mobiles and boxed sets are ideal for gifts, and the range of phones on offer is improving all the time. Even so, some of the latest phones are only available on contract. This means you will have to involve the recipient if you want to buy it as a gift (unless you also want to sign up for their calls too). But with a top-of-the-range mobile weighing in at just a touch under pounds 300 this is hardly an impulse buy.

The best option is to seek the advice of an independent retailer such as Carphone Warehouse or The Link that stocks phones from all four networks. Only a specialist will be able to give up-to-date advice on the phone, running costs and the all-important issue of network coverage.

Mobile phones

Motorola Timeport Tri-band L7089

Motorola goes where no phone has gone before with coverage across Europe and major cities in the United States. A threeband phone gives the best choice of networks, and for anyone travelling to North America, there really is no competition. The Timeport is not the smartest or smallest phone on the market, but it does boast features such as voice activation and an infrared link to computers and personal organisers.

From pounds 99 with a contract, depending on network (eg Orange pounds 129.99), or pounds 279.99 on Virgin Mobile.

Bosch 509E

A translucent, orange phone from Orange. This looks good, has the features you need, and if you buy it as a pay as you go phone, it comes with 10 free text messages a day as an introductory offer. A natural companion for that tangerine iMac.

pounds 69.99 on Orange Just Talk or pounds 129.99 for a year's subscription on Orange Boxed and Ready.

Nokia 5146/NK 402/5110

A quality handset from market leaders Nokia, this is a good-sized phone with decent battery life and the option to connect to a laptop. Style watchers will appreciate the changeable covers, but as a single-band phone it will only work in some parts of Europe.

pounds 99.99 on One2One's More 2 Say, Vodafone's Pay As You Talk or Orange's Just Talk.

Bosch 909

Small and extremely stylish in silver. Anyone who finds the Bosch giftwrapped for them will know they are valued.

pounds 199.99 on One2One's More 2 Say.

Motorola V3688

Now in millennium silver, this is the phone to be seen with, although its tiny size makes it an understated fashion statement. The Motorola is a dual-band phone with a built-in modem for PC, as well as great looks.

pounds 299.99 on a contract (all networks) or pounds 379.99 with Virgin Mobile.


Headset recoiler: coil up that all-important headset with a yoyo-like device from the Carphone Warehouse (pounds 7.99) or try the neat retractable headset from Virgin Mobile (pounds 19.99).

Press-on covers: why buy a new phone when you can buy a new case? Tasteful, stylish or South Park covers for Nokia phones. Around pounds 20, Carphone Warehouse and other dealers.

Ericsson Chatboard: if you use your phone to type text messages, invest in this. The Chatboard is a miniature keyboard that clips on to Ericsson phones (pounds 19.99 with a contract).

Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Neil Warnock
football'New' manager for Crystal Palace
REX/Eye Candy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

    £500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN TAWe are looking to recrui...

    Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

    £40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

    Test Job

    TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis