Are you getting the best deal on your mobile phone contract?

Mobile Phone contract
By DJ Reyes on 28 Oct 2011 11:32 am EDT

Most BlackBerry smartphone owners get theirs on a contract. We established this in a recent poll where most CrackBerry readers said they were locked in a contract. For most of my mobile phone life I have been on a contract. There have been occasions where I have gotten bored with the phone I got with my contract and buy one off contract half way through but that was before my BlackBerry days. That was also before UK networks got rid of 12 month contracts. Nowadays, we see 24 month contracts or 18 month ones in the UK and although some UK networks have brought back 12 month contracts, it's only available to existing customers and you pay a whole lot more upfront than on an 18 or 24 month contract.

You may have noticed from my UK Buyer's guide Part 1 that we love our ‘free' contracts, where we pay nothing upfront for the device. It is what most people go for when getting a contract and networks willfully oblige, as it means you pay higher per month but by doing this are you really getting the best deal? Is better to take a lower tariff and pay upfront? Or even get the device sim free (off-contract) from an authorised reseller or pay as you go?

Let's take a closer look at the cost of these contracts we're signing up to. We'll use the BlackBerry Bold 9900 as an example since all UK networks now have this BlackBerry device available. Sim free devices or pay as you go devices can be a bargain. It is certainly popular here in the UK as you can get decent, entry level handsets on a budget but high-end smartphones tend to be a little more expensive. In the UK there are a couple of websites that sell mobile phones sim free - and Some networks will have higher end smartphones available on pay as you go while others don't. The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is available on pay as you go from O2 and Three. Let's take a look at the price breakdown. 

  • O2 - £479.99 (plus a £15 top-up)
  • Three - £449.99 (plus £10 or £15 top-up)
  • Expansys - £489.99
  • Clove - £498.00

Looking at the list above the cheapest deal would be with Three UK at a total of £459.99 (including £10 top-up). Now, let's take a look at the overall cost of your 18 or 24 month contract. The lowest monthly payment on a 24 month contract is from O2 at £16.50 per month, with an upfront payment of £199.99 for the device. The cost overall in 24 months is £595.99, already £150 more than Three's pay as you go deal. T-Mobile offers one of the most expensive monthly tariffs at £61.27, although there probably won't be many opting to choose this tariff the overall cost would £1470.48, three times more than pay as you go deals. Let's be a little more realistic and look at what most people go for. Most folks, myself included would go for the plan that would give me the phone ‘free' on average this ranges from £30 to £40 a month depending on what network you go for. Vodafone offers the Bold 9900 for free from £36 a month so over 24 months the cost to you is £864. Anyone one of the pay as you go deals looks a lot better than that amount. Is an 18-month contract any better? Well, you pay £5 more a month but it is also 6 months less in length, so looking at the same plans as we already have O2's cheapest would become £21.50 + £199.99, totalling £586.99. This plan already cheaper than going for a 24-month contract. Vodafone's plan would be £41 a month with a free device with a grand total of £738. Again, much cheaper than its 24-month equivalent.

So, by taking a look at those values, it seems going sim free/off-contract is more cost effective than going for a contract deal. Granted some may not be able to afford spending all that money in one go but over the long run you certainly save more. If you must go on a contract plan, perhaps consider going for a lower monthly payment and pay something upfront as it still works out cheaper than taking the 'free' device option. Have you had a look at your monthly contract lately? Will you start to think about paying a little more upfront? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Reader comments

Are you getting the best deal on your mobile phone contract?


Cellphone companies have us all by the balls. They artificially inflate the cost of handsets to force us into expensive contracts, which we are believed the carriers receive enough money while we're on contract to recover the subsidy of the phone. When my contract is up how come my plan doesn't go down? If the carrier has already received enough in compensation for the phone subsidy my cellphone bill should decrease, right?

Exactly....and how come the shorter contracts are much more expensive than the longer contracts? The additional money you pay isn't a linear function of the contract length. It's pure B/ least in Canada it is.

We Canadians have to suffer with THREE year contracts. Up until a couple months ago, I was still running a Storm1. (It was not as bad as people might have you believe... the later versions of OS5 made the phone way better than when it first came out, although the lack of memory was a pita)

We get screwed in Canada for a lot of things. The problem is that the majority of the mobile service is controlled by Rogers, Telus, and Bell. Telus and Bell have the same network, and they all price fix to keep contract and rate prices high. The CRTC has let them build a monopoly and we are only just now seeing some other choices, but most of those are owned by the big three. Choosing Koodo might appeal to you because you think you are going with something more independent (maybe it appeals to youth to not be going with one of the big ones), but Koodo is subsidiary of Telus. And it's the same way with internet and cable and satellite television for us.

As long as the big three control the infrastructure, we will keep having to suffer through long, and expensive contracts.

It's a game with Canadian carriers -- you have to find a way to screw them, like getting on a corporate plan otherwise -- they'll just continue to screw you.

it sucks so badly, i wish i can know a way around, $80 a month for rogers with 200 min + 500MB data!!! help me bla1ze please

They're gouging me, so I am now switching to WINDmobile by this coming december 1st 2011. I am sick of paying so much for wireless service that is much cheaper elsewhere. Fuck the big three bullies, i'm going with the winners. Despite what the big three (RoBelUs) say about wind, public (everybodytalk) and mobilicity, I won't listen to them. My mother is on Wind, I had to talk her into it and she now saves money (pay before $20/month plan) and same with my pal Marvin, paying only $35/month for unlimited everything. Who cares about "zones", it's the same with cityfido. Also, Chat-r is obviously Rogers, so don't be fooled with their shit. Fido is also owned by Rogers. Solomobile is Bell, Virginmobile is also on bell's network. BY DECEMBER 1ST 2011, I WILL DITCH TELUS AND SWITCH TO WIND.

If you complain enough, you can sometimes get them to give you promo rates on things. They can do an awful lot to placate you if you are willing to phone and complain and threaten to switch to another carrier to the right people.

You should never pay an activation fee, that's a joke. Why should it cost $35 to switch to a new handset? There's no labour involved, they just change a number on you account (scan it off the phone or sim card, don't even have to manually type it in) and it's done.

I am on Vodafone Qatar and I get millionx what I pay.

I pay 200QR I get 200QR credit, 2011 Free minutes, 100MB and 300SMS/MMS with rollover.

Also I pay 49QR I get Unlimited BlackBerry

Although the numbers are interesting, the author of this article does not include the monthly payment you have to do to get service on a no-contract smartphone!

The best plan in Canada seems to be from Koodo that charges you $25 for 2Gb of data, compared to Fido that only gives you 250Mb for $25. However, Koodo has this weird 'tab', which is similar to a contract, who knows what the penalty is for opting out.

For me, contract free is the best option, as I had a bad experience when on contract. Being on contract is slavery, but that's what gives the telcos their big revenue.

I got the BB Torch 9800 last Dec - free handset, and I'm paying £33.70 per month on a 18month out to £606.60......Hmmm might just buy my next phone I think.

nope its not worth doing. lets say for your torch ya paid £480 at the time sim only (that was the price back then) and ya then have a say £15 sim only deal, £15x18months = £270 + £480 hardware = £750 so youd lose money overall.

the way i do it, is go for a 12 month contract. i`ll use my current bold 9900 contract as an example.
£36 a month for 12 months and £150 up front = £582 then add £15x6 months - £90 for that plan on sim only - total over 18 months - £672
balance this against £41x 18months for the equivalent plan on a 18month with a free phone and thats £738 total.

so the 1yr then 6 months sim only gives you a £66 saving. also you can then factir in the pace of tech nowadays and you can also then upgrade withiin a year every time too.

contract used for this example was 600mins, ultd sms and 500Mb with BIS, prices were vodafone via carphone warehouse (normally a few quid cheaper a month that vodafone directly lol).

so my overall advice, would be firstly look at what your useage is then facctor that in, if your thinking PAYG then work out how much a month all your useage is, if your thinking contract, then make sure your tarriff is the right one for you (sounds simple, but you`d be supprised how many people go over by more than £5 on their monthly plans, which being on the right priceplan would negate) then when you have those prices, have aloook at what works out cheapest overall.

and my last piece of advice, and this is more for those phones4u and carphonewarehouse shoppers, if you see a deal with a `free tv` or such, work the cost out, best example i can give was p4u doing a £25 24month plan on a nokia 5800 with a free Wii 2 yrs ago, sounds awesome right? wrong. vodafone were doing the exact same plan for £15 a month with no Wii, so £240 saving, factor in the £180 for a Wii and the `real` saving is £60. so always make sure it all adds up

If you are already with a network, here's what to do based on my very recent (i.e. getting the contract and phone yesterday) experience.

Last week I phoned Vodafone on 191 to request my PAC (used to swap phones between networks). They offered me a marginally better deal than I was on at the moment. I told them I wanted a free BB9900, 18mnth contract and less than £30 per month. 'No chance mate' I was told!

Fast forward to this Wednesday, I receive a call from the retentions department, trying to get me to stay (I had done all the calculations at this point, geeky spreadsheet included which showed me Tesco Mobile BB SIM only + eBay phone would be best for my 500mins).

He offered me the 18months, free BB9900 (a returned item from someone unhappy with their contract, not the phone, so essentially new), at £26 per month (unlimited texts and 500mb internet + bb services). I was chuffed! But I wanted to see if I could get it down more - I told them (white lie) if I got the SIM free phone and a tesco SIM, that I'd be able to get my contract down to £20 per month. So, he ummed and ahhed before dropping the contract to £23.

Got my nice new BB9900 yesterday, and confirmation of:

600 mins
Unlimited texts
500mb internet
BB services
18 months
£23 per month.

That is £414 TOTAL cost for the length of my 18 month contract, which will finish just in time for the BBX phones to come out :P


Correct me if I'm wrong (I did skim this article a bit) but the writer got this one wrong.

Ok, so you get a Pay As You Go phone from T-Mobile for £465 or whatever. Ok great.
Or, you get a contract phone and end up paying almost £600 over the course of a 24 month contract.

Now, what the writer has forgotten to factor in, is that what if you actually want to USE the phone on a Pay As You Go plan? You've topped up initially to the tune of £10-15. Once that runs out, you have to top up again! Therefore, you're spending a bucket load more cash on Pay As You Go over a 24 month period. In comparison, on contract, for your £16.50-40.00 plan, you get 100-1000 minutes, up to 1GB or more data etc. or whatever.

Contract is cheaper.

However, the question should have been: Is it cheaper to get a phone included when starting your contract, or is it cheaper to buy your phone outright somewhere else, and then do a SIM only contract? THAT is the question this article should have been written about.

It really depends on how much voice and data you use. Some people won't use more than 200Mb/month and won't use more than 100 minutes of voice/mo. Only if you are a power user the contract option seems more attractive.

I was thinking the exact same thing myself!!

This si more about spreading the cost of the device over 24 months and didn't touch on the actual call plan, data tariff you're getting?

SO take the cheapest deal which we found as being the PAYG device from three, you've still got to add in the cheapest data plan, so say that's £12 a month (give or take). Over 24 months (the equivalent time frame to compare getting a device ono contract) you end up paying another £228 onto of the device.

I'm not going to do the math, but it need taking into account, otherwise you're just talking about an expensive payment plan for a new device!

I bought a pearl 3G 9100 unlocked in amazon for 239.99$, i'm on a prepaid plan in Venezuela (DIGITEL GSM) and for around 13$/Month i get:

100 Minutes (to my carrier)
70 Minutes (others cariers)
450 sms
512 MB
bb service(with everything not social plan)

I cant go 18month with the same phone (3 year contract sounds CRAZY) my 18 month contract runs out in May 2012 & since starting the contract & getting a free BlackBerry Torch 9800 ive since had a Black 9780, White 9780, 9700,9900 & now im back on my 9700 till i sell my 9900 & get another white 9780 until the 9790 comes out. This in less than a year. I like BlackBerrys so i like to check out the new ones when they come out but always come back to my 9700/9780. I make sure i look after my phobes so i can sell them in great condition & dont mind paying a little extra to buy a new Berry (that i normally sell in a couple of month anyway). By the time my contract is up for an upgrade i'll probably have the latest BlackBerry anyway so i can just continue my contract month to month knowing i only have to give 30 days notice (unless i decide i dont want a BlackBerry then im faced with a new obstacle, but i dont think that will happen). Ebay no:230692818570 UK ONLY. Thanks.

I am on a 3 year contract with Rogers in Canada. It isn't really that bad. I have the package from 2 years ago that you cannot get anymore. And because I upgrade the package stays while the phones change.

You aren't stuck with your phone for the entire time. I started with a Bold 9000, then after a year switched to the Torch 9800 and just last month I made a switch to the Bold 9900. Each time I upgraded I paid the 199 for a 3 year contract and they just tacked on the time.

I have friends that this didn't work out for and they just bring up the fact that usually its cheaper to buy out the remainder of their contract and switch to a new carrier and get the 3 year price. Then these places usually start to accomodate them.

I went to the site (us version) and they have 2 9900 on there with different specs (frequencies). I am on the AT&T network.

Does anyone know which phone to choose for AT&T?
Here are the networks available.

• Wireless Network support: Tri-Band HSPA+ 850/1900/2100, Quad-Band GSM/EDGE
• Wireless Network support: Tri-Band HSPA+ [4G](900/1700/2100), Quad-Band GSM/EDGE

I believe you will need the:

Wireless Network support: Tri-Band HSPA+ 850/1900/2100, Quad-Band GSM/EDGE

Are you still in contract with AT&T? if not see my posting for
Simple Mobile....Save you some $$$$$$$


I've been looking at Expansys Australian site for buying the BB9900.

I see that Expansys are Hong Kong based and that the purchases are shipped in from there .... have you used them before?

Are they reputable?

They have a lot of bbs and lots of different accessories - so I'm I'm guessing they're ok - but just wanted to hear someone else's opinion ...

I'm in the USA using a BB9700 version 6.0 OS my carrier is AT&T. I own my phone outright and not under contract. I have a postpaid account with AT&T

Nation 450 with Rollover $39.99
AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling $19.99
(need the above feature feature because of poor coverage in my basement apartment)
AT&T World Connect: $3.99
Enhanced Voice Mail $1.99 (not really sure what this is for?)
Messaging Unlimited with Mobile to Any Mobile Calling $20.00
DataPlus 200MB for Blackberry $15.00
Additional charges: I have friends in Jamaica. Text messages $0.25 each to send
calling to Jamaica to a cell phone is $0.49 per minute rounded up
Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge $0.79
Federal Universal Service Charge $2.89
State Gross Receipts Surcharge $5.08
9-1-1 Service Fee 1.00
E-911 GIS & Tech Fund 0.26
Rhode Island State Telecom Tax 7.46
Current Rollover Minute Balance 4,410 (I will never use these)
My October 2010 to October 2011 total dollar spent $2,235.00 which converts to 1387.51GBP
or 1578.39 EUR
----------------------------The above is for AT&T---------------------------------------------------------------
Now I am thinking on switching to a pre-pay From SIMPLE MOBILE which operates on the
T-Mobile carrier.
Their price for unlimited calls, BBdata, text message, (free texting to Jamaica) and $0.30 minute to cell phone in Jamaica
Total cost $60.00 converts to 37.25 GBP , 42.37EUR
My yearly cost $720.00

The only disadvantage is I will not have the cover needed in my basement apartment. But, I have been thinking about buying a Cell Phone Signal Booster $200.00 to $300.00 investment.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

I have my torch 9800 with att on a post payment plan that's month to month since I already owned my phone. I'm on the 450 min for $39.99. Messaging Unlimited with Mobile to Any Mobile Calling $20.00, DataPlus 200MB for Blackberry $25 but I've been going over on data so I get charged the $10/1GB every month smh. Now I do get a 28% discount from my work but it only counts toward my minutes I believe. Its just to much and I need more data so I'm thinking of getting sprint everything data 450 min, unlimited texts, mobile to any mobile $69.99 and additional $10 for unlimited BIS, $8 insurance. My discount is 27% which will bring it down to $69 and I don't gotta worry bout it being more since its unlimited and I can get my bold 9900 already instead of waiting for att to come out. And planning on getting playbook to use bridge

switched I and the wife's phone to prepaid service from sprint post-paid accounts, long-term cost savings on prepaid outweighs post-paid and being stuck on a silly contract. switched my wife to SIMPLE mobile(tmobile MVNO) using a 9360 for $50 a month BIS included plus unlimited international sms & I use an android device on straight-talk(at&t MVNO) paying $45 a month for unlimited everything including data for a total of $95 a month compared to what I was paying sprint an average of about $160 a month.
The only thing about going prepaid is the initial upfront cost for phone purchase, but personally the long-term cost of ownership on the prepaid just works out much better.

I recently ended my contract early with Sprint due to the fact that I am having difficulty rationalizing paying $80 a month for a cellphone.
I ended up with Virgin Mobile USA. I pay $45 for a similar plan.
I did have to pay for my Blackberry upfront, but it was only $180 and the phone is just as capable as my previous BB was (actually, I have better battery life now, which was a real concern for me).
I am never going back to contract.

Did everyone forget.... That on pay and go u have to top up your phone every month to use... And with a blaclberry u need to have the pay and go blackberry bolt on... So if we are talking a 24 month timeline... That's £360 on top of the pay and go price... And that still doesngive you as many minutes, texts, data u would get on a £36 a month 24 month contract... Over all my contract is cheaper

I swore I would never do drugs or become addicted to anything.... Thanks RIM for making me a liar, I can't put this bitch down lol

One more year on my current 3 year contract and I won't be renewing it. I've got a good system where I keep my phone in 10/10 condition (otterbox + screen protector). Then I sell it on craigslist when I want an upgrade. Most recently sold my 9780 for 300, then got the 9900 for 500$. Ill do this again when the next phone comes out. At that point ill be out of my contract and free to do whatever the hell I want. Still a long time away but not shur what my best option will be. Pay as you go, 1 month contract at a time (if they even do that). We'll see.