Beginner's Guide To: Choosing the right mobile deal

With so many mobile phone deals on the market you could be forgiven for being confused. Do you go for pay as you go (PAYG) or contract? Smartphone or something more basic? We outline the key things to consider when buying a mobile.

How do you use your phone?

This is probably the most important factor when buying a phone as it will determine whether a contract or PAYG deal is likely to offer you best value. Contracts require you to pay a monthly fee. This will include a certain number of call minutes and texts each month and such deals tend to offer better value to those who use their mobile regularly. Contract arrangements, as the name suggests, tie you to that provider for a set period – often 12, 18 or 24 months. Typically, the longer the contract, the lower the monthly fee. If you rarely use your phone, PAYG could be better because you top-up your phone with credit when you need it. PAYG is also popular with parents looking for a phone for their children as the amount they spend can be more easily controlled.

Surfing on the move

It used to just be the cost of phoning and texting you needed to consider, but many of today's phones also offer internet and email access. If you'll use these functions it's vital to compare costs. Not all price plans include unlimited usage so you could be hit with a hefty bill – some networks can charge up to £5 per megabyte for internet usage.

Smartphone or not to Smartphone

A deluge of "Smartphones" have been launched in the last year, most notably the iPhone 3G, the G1 Google phone and the Blackberry Storm. These may draw glances of admiration, but they can also be expensive. The minimum monthly contract fee is likely to be higher than that of a standard phone, and if you opt for a PAYG deal the handset itself could cost you £250 or more. So consider a Smartphone only if you will make good use of the applications – otherwise it'll be a waste of money.

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