But if your old mobile phone has died, or you just dropped it one too many times, don’t be seduced into signing a £30-a-month, two-year contract for a £500-plus smartphone because, as my recent experience shows, there is just no need to do so.
All you need to do is spend a little more than £100 on the latest Chinese-made Huawei (recently rebranded Honor) handset, and grab a £7.50-a-month sim-only deal from Tesco Mobile, and all but the most demanding of mobile users will not be able to spot the difference – and save hundreds of pounds.
How did we find out? Well, the Brignall household has just done exactly this, and couldn’t be happier.
Faced with a domestic mobile phone crisis – my daughter Lottie had dropped and smashed her old phone – I went on the hunt for a value smartphone that would do all the usual teen stuff, such as sending emails, using social media, surfing the web and, crucially for her, taking good photos.
Online reviews pointed me to a couple of handsets – one of his favourite budget options, the then £169 Moto G6, was still a bit too pricey for us, but he also suggested Huawei/Honor. And the more I read online about its handsets, the more I was convinced this was probably the way to go.
An iPhone X … costs at least £999 from Apple. Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
At the time the £99 Huawei Y6 looked to be best sim-free deal – meaning my daughter could move her sim card over from the previous phone, and Carphone Warehouse could deliver the next day.
Within hours of its arrival she was declaring it great and, a few months on, it has proved a great choice. Battery life is very good and it does everything a 19-year-old design student has needed.
The camera has been excellent. Its only downside has been its lowly 16GB storage, but this was easily resolved with a £15 insertable SD card.
When two months later, my wife’s four-year-old Windows phone died, we again scouted the market.
On Amazon Prime Day, we bought the Honor 7C for £114, down from £169. Don’t tell my daughter, but this phone is even better, although some may find the 5.99-inch screen a bit too big.
So far she is similarly happy, and it has left us wondering why people are prepared to pay £700 to £999 for the latest handsets.
The advantage of buying a sim-free phone – over a contract deal – is that you are not locked in to an expensive provider and can put any sim card in it, at any time. Phones get better and cheaper all the time, so we decided that a three-year contract was no good for us.
Tesco Mobile’s sim deal is not the absolute cheapest, but it is very competitive, and the company offers the best customer service in the industry (winning accolades from Which? and scoring the best in regulator Ofcom’s complaints league table).
For £7.50 a month Tesco will give you 1GB of data and 500 minutes of calls – if you sign up for 12 months. It you want 6GB of data a month Tesco will charge you £12.50 a month. Tesco uses the 02 network. Giffgaff is also worth looking at, but you can’t go into a store and ask for help.
Carphone Warehouse’s sim-only deals (called ID Mobile) are also cheap – 1GB of data and 500 minutes of calls – for £5 a month, on a rolling deal, so you are not locked in.
The other advantage of sim-free is that if a better deal comes along you can switch without the bother of having to get the handset unlocked. Also, if you go on a trip outside the EU where roaming charges can still hit, you can simply put in a local sim.
This week the Gadgets Central website, which spends hours comparing handsets, named the £469 OnePlus 6 the best phone you can buy right now, beating the £999 iPhone X and other rivals. “It is fairly priced, has the best specs you could hope for, looks great and has cameras that can compete with its rivals,” it said.
But to me, that still looks way too much. The Huawei P8 Lite is currently £129. If you don’t want to go with Huawei/Honor there are other bargains out there – but you won’t get as much for your money.