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How much would you spend on a new smartphone?

Expensive smartphones

It’s not the screen on your next smartphone that you need to worry about breaking. It’s the bank when you come to buy it outright. So what’s the cheapest way of enjoying the latest handheld tech?

Last week, the CEO of Dixons Carphone, Sebastian James, warned that it would see a sales slump this year, citing more expensive smartphones as a cause. It seems that people are holding onto their smartphones for longer, extending the two-year upgrade cycle we’ve all grown accustomed to.

Even as someone whose job involves writing about smartphones every day, I’m still in a state of permanent shock about just how expensive some mobiles are.

Last week, Samsung announced the launch of the Galaxy Note 8 to the world. The new model will cost a jaw-dropping £869 to buy outright. Sure, it comes with a suite of impressive-sounding features, but is it really worth that much money?

Like most people, I love to go on holiday. For my fairly humble tastes, £869 could more than easily cover a week-long jaunt abroad. However, I’m in my mid-twenties, which means I can spend many happy (if unsociable) hours of an evening on my smartphone, and I like to have the latest tech where possible. These two truths make it tricky for me to answer my own question.

Is it cheaper to go down the contract road?

A lot of people take out contracts with their smartphone, myself included. This means you don’t have to pay for the phone outright – rather you pay for the handset and a package of allowances for texts, minutes and data use over 24 months.

By opting for a contract, you avoid the initial heavy hit to your bank balance that buying outright incurs. For me, smaller monthly payments seem much more manageable than forking out hundreds of pounds.

But if I had my sensible hat on, I’d buy a phone outright and take out a Sim-only deal. It often works out cheaper over time. That said, some contracts do offer good value for money – so it’s worth getting out your calculator and working out the best option for you, to make sure you’re not paying much more than you need to.

Do you need to spend loads on a smartphone?

The simple answer is: no. You can spend less than £50 on a smartphone, if budget is your only consideration.

But you don’t want to be lumbered with a phone that makes you feel frustrated every time you use it. Fortunately, there are some brilliant cheap mobile phones out there with brilliant battery life and good cameras.

Would you spend nearly £900 on a smartphone?

No (95%, 1,525 Votes)

Yes (3%, 43 Votes)

I'm not sure (2%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,599

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However, if you want all the latest features and the fastest processors, you might need to spend a little more. But it’s really worth thinking about whether you need those extras.

One of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8’s key selling points is its S-Pen. This is a stylus that you use directly on the screen, for quickly jotting down notes or a phone number, for drawing something and more. Undoubtedly cool, but there’s not much point in paying extra for it if you’re not going to use it.

What do you think? Do you think it’s worth spending lots of money on a smartphone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


I bought a Galaxy S7 Edge last year, bought outright and have Sim-only with no contract. It replaced an 8 year old phone so there will probably be a Galaxy S15 before I replace this one.

That means my previous phone cost around £40 a year and this one will be around £90 a year.

I tend to buy the best one that I want and make them last as long as the phone does what I want it to do, I won’t change it. But it was nice to have a latest model even if it was only for a short time.

That’s precisely what I did; phone companies apply a huge mark up on their purchase contracts – I bought my Samsung Galaxy S7 edge direct from Samsung costing well over £100 less than the Virgin price. The only other angle to cover is the insurance; I’ve done this with my home insurance company.

I pre-ordered the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus…. I paid nothing upfront and my monthly tariff is £42 a month for 24 months. This includes 24gb of data, unlimited minutes and texts. The total cost to me will be £1008. Not a bad deal for a phone that costs £779 to buy outright.

Dr Robert K F Hughes says:
2 September 2017

I’m thinking of buying a Samsung S8 plus.
I travel a lot and am looking for a single item to replace my kindle , iPhone and iPad.
I am truly fed up with the way Apple has developed particularly in its attitude to , open source providers , and iTunes since version 6.
They have effectively stolen my own music library collected over 40 years and painstakingly loaded onto iTunes version 2.
So sod them and their Ecosystem ; which to my mind is a exploitative business model; I’m off to a Andriod Fablet which allows open source software providers to properly compete.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

It is three and a half years since I bought my first smartphone and it still works fine. I did buy the phone rather than choosing a contract with a ‘free’ phone.

When I need to replace my phone I will look at the options available. People don’t see that it is old because it lives protected in a leather case. I suppose I could get a ‘smashed screen’ app to make it look more modern. 🙂

I have not had a contract phone since 2003 and never intend to have one again.
Buying outright and using one of the many PAYG MVNO’s will save you in the long run.
My iPhone 6 cost me £370 new and I pay on average £6.50 a month credit on 3’s 321 sim.
My workmate pays 52 pounds a month on a 2 year contract for his 7.
He just doesn’t see it.

I just splashed out £39 and treated myself to a brand new Alcatel Pixi 4 4″.

Unlike many 5″ fones, my Pixi is not so big that it can easily fall out of my pocket. It cost £39 and takes my existing O2 sim-only contract sim card.

I’m not really a huge phan of fones and tablets – most of the time I’d sooner use a decent laptop (preferably with a maintained and secure OS).

Around £300, which is why I bought the OnePlus 3

No doubt there will be the usual Applehype™️ for the iPhone X, which has Face ID and an edge-to-edge display: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/09/apple-unveils-new-iphones

Presumably this will herald a move towards edge-to-edge displays on other brands. Time to buy shares in companies that offer screen replacements, I think.

Maybe an iPhone 9 would really help you stand out from the crowd.

…or as my brother has just texted:

Q. How do you milk sheep?

A. Launch a new iPhone and charge £1000 for it!

Huawei releases a new smartphone that’s meant to rival the iphone – and I bet it’s less that £1000 :O


As I can’t locate a topic specifically dealing with Mobile ‘Phone contracts, I thought I’d drop this in here.

Two years ago, and for the first time in some 20 years, we entered a mobile phone contract with O2 and did this through Carphone Warehouse. The contract included an iPhone6S and unlimited calls, texts and data. It was a fairly good deal at the time, being only £31.00 pm for 24 months.

We took out the contract on 5/2/16 so this Feb it ends. Now I was expecting O2 to get in contact, but they didn’t – more on that in a moment – and when I’d finished navigating their unbelievably convoluted automated ‘phone menu from Hades, I managed to get to speak to a real human. She was delightful, to be fair, but some of the things she told me are quite worrying.

1. At the end of the 24 month contract unless and until you contact O2 to ask them to cancel the payments, upgrade the service or upgrade the handset they will continue to debit your account of the full amount every month.

NB: the term ‘upgrade’ in O2 parlance means something different from the OED or the English language generally: it means to change the tariff. Up or down, it’s still – in their eyes – an ‘upgrade’.

Here’s the contract paragraph in detail:

3. Your Minimum Period – Your Pay Monthly Mobile Agreement (This is actually the contract period – a term they again choose to vary or use…flexibly) has a minimum term called a Minimum Period. After that Minimum Period, you can end the Agreement by giving us 30 days’ Notice and you will have to pay Charges during this notice period. Unless specified otherwise (such as in your Tariff Terms), if you want to end the Agreement during the Minimum Period or we end this Agreement as a result of your material breach, then you will have to pay a fee of no more than your Monthly Subscription Charges multiplied by the number of months left in your Minimum Period and if you’ve taken Equipment on a Device Plan, you will have to pay for it in full. Details are in paragraph 8 of the Agreement.

3.2 At the end of any Minimum Period this Agreement will continue until it’s ended by you or us.

So, to get things clear:

1. They happily use ‘contract period’ and ‘Minimum period’ interchangeably. Why? It certainly doesn’t help in terms of clarity.

2. The headline offers always state ‘A 24 month contract’ but it seems, from talking to O2, that it only applies one way. We have to pay for the full 24 months, but the onus is on us end the contract verbally or aurally, even though the contract has – by reason of its original description – reached an end. Why? Well, anyone who forgets, or who perhaps is ill, infirm, elderly or confused could easily end up paying the full amount – which will include the original cost of the new iPhone – even though the contract has ended. Nice little earner for the companies but I wonder if that’s not downright dishonest?

On the matter of why they didn’t get in touch, they only use the mobile ‘phone to do that, it seems, But we don’t have mobile coverage in the back and beyond. I asked them why they don’t use our landline, but they don’t apparently.

So – any comments from the team at Which?