/ Technology

Why is it so hard to find the right mobile deal?

Variety of mobile phones

Contracts, tariffs, web data, specifications… choosing a new phone is a complete headache. But nothing hurts more than calling your mobile phone provider’s sales team for ‘advice’.

I can’t take it anymore. My mobile’s old, unfashionable and lacking in anything vaguely related to an app.

All of that I can cope with. What I can’t cope with is a phone that turns itself off just as I finish writing a text. Or one that stores up voice messages for days without telling me. Reluctantly, I’ve had to admit that it’s time to call my provider and discuss my options.

And this is where the real problem lies – there are too many options. It’s not that I don’t want a decent phone (I do), I just can’t cope with working out which one is right for me.

The pain of choosing a new phone

Question one: What model do I want? One with a decent camera (are any cameraphones decent?), a bigger screen (but that makes it heavier) or one that’s good for browsing the internet (and uses up battery life)?

Then there’s cost. Should I get a free phone and pay more each month or pay for the phone and get a cheaper monthly plan?

How many minutes and texts do I need? Will 0.5GB of web data be enough, or will I use the internet loads once I’ve got a decent phone? Somebody help me, please.

Don’t get drawn into the wrong contract

So, I finally caved in and called my provider yesterday. Having looked around on the internet I was feeling reasonably confident that I wouldn’t get drawn in to the wrong contract. Still, I was politely informed that the phone I liked was an uncharacteristic choice for a female customer and swiftly recommended some other models.

Then, after being told that my average monthly usage is 200 minutes of talk time and 150 texts, I was offered a plan with 2,000 minutes and 5,000 texts. My protestations that I don’t need anywhere near that much fell on deaf ears too – apparently it makes no difference to the monthly price whether I have 200 minutes or 2,000.

I finally managed to finish the call, but only because I practically hung-up. I’ve got to hand it to these guys, they don’t get fobbed off easily, and I nearly agreed to what I was offered out of pure exhaustion.

I still don’t have a new mobile, I’m still confused and I still need to call my provider again to tell them I’d like to chose the deal that suits me best, not one that they’ve decided I should have. I can hardly wait.


Mobile providers didn’t used to make it easy, it was enough to make anyone pull all their hair out. I think most of them have improved now. But like any appliance it’s worth thinking what you want to use it for. Mobile phones these days aren’t just about making calls or texting (if you do, you’re so last decade!).

Call me vain but I start by looks. Let’s face it, I know I’m not alone – it’s the same reason why we buy most things. After all, if all you want is a T shirt to cover your top then pop into Tesco and buy one for £2. But if you’re even the slightest a slave to fashion you’ll be in a half-decent store looking at labels. Same applies to phones. No one now wants to be seen in public with anything less than the latest smartphone. Unless you’re somebody who lives in a bungalow, drives a Rover and collects gnomes in the garden. In other words, starting your search by phone isn’t for everyone.

For smartphone (or any phone) reviews, there are some decent websites out there(not only Which? but also the likes of GSMArena, Mobile-Review, Testfreaks) that give you scores from hundreds of users. That’ll help you narrow your choice in terms of looks and features.

Then look at how much you can afford per month, find the cheapest provider with your chosen phone and finally just check the deal still provides you with the service you’re looking for.

Failing that, start with how much you’re prepared to pay per month and look at the handsets available.

A large piece of paper and a pen is very handy!

We acquired our first ‘mobile phones’ many many years ago – at that time it was more like carrying a brick around! This was when David Emmanuel and his pal (can’t remember his name as age is catching up with me!) were selling phones from a flat in Glasgow – many of you may not even know who I am referring to!
We transcended down various networks, BT cellnet eventually became O2 with the result that the amount we were paying for our monthly contract was incredulously laughed at – £15 per month.
Recently my other half decided that Smartphones were an essential part of our requirements despite my adamantly stating I was happy with my Motorola RAZR which had served me well for a number of years.
I have to reluctantly admit that I am impressed with the HTC Desire that I have and the HTC Mini that other half now has BUT it was only after much too-ing and fro-ing on various websites (including Which?) that we arrived at the decision on which phone to select.
As an over-rider, I have to also say that it was a struggle to obtain correct information from O2 as to the best way to move forward and change from our ancient contracts and took many, many weeks of arguing with various ‘advisors’ at its call centres, frequently being given differing information from different individuals! The doubt still remains that we may NOT be on the most advantageous contract…………………but the mobile coverage in our area of Aberdeenshire is so poor, we more or less have to accept what we get – however, I suppose that point is somewhat more pertinent to another topic on this site!

I have to say that I try and avoid making any contact with any human in any communications company. Mainly because the people who work there are extremely bad at communicating! Most of the staff don’t seem to know the deals, the costs, the rates, the coverage, anything about the handsets. I prefer to search the providers’ websites and do my own research. But if I do find two similar deals with different providers I will call up, armed with all the info, and try and negotiate. As the old saying goes – if a job’s worth doing, you’re better off doing it yourself!

Mark Williams says:
23 December 2010

I would agree that mobile phone companies are amongst the worst to deal with. I have a number of PAYG phones and it has been a nightmare trying to get PAC codes (for keeping the number when you leave) from all of them.

When getting a contract phone I knew exactly which handset I wanted but I still got the hard sell from them to buy a different one. I don’t care whether my phone looks old and unfashionable (in fact it is less likely to get stolen) but I did require an Android handset for my work.

I found it hard to get a contract that bundled what I needed (loads of data but not many calls) but did eventually get one. I did find, in this case, that I could get a better deal by calling them as they gave me an extra discount when I haggled a bit. It’s a shame that their after sales service is poor.

Phone companies are rather like power companies. Make pricing structure as complex as possible to ensure that punters can’t compare on a level playing field.

What other commonality is there between the mobile and power industries? They are both monitored and regulated by two useless quangos – Ofcom and Ofgen.