Mobile deals: how to buy a smartphone for less?

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Prices for the same model fluctuate regularly between retailers. While manufacturers typically only sell their phones at the recommended retail price, third-party retailers may discount them based on inventory levels and age, so shop around and check out multiple price comparison tools, such as Google ShoppingKelkooPriceRunner or Price spy

Beware of deals that look particularly cheap as they may not be UK models or be sold from the UK which could affect warranty or after sales support.

To compare contract or outright offers

Prepaying for a phone is usually the cheapest way to own it in the long run, but not always. Newly released models can be cheaper if bought under a contract with a phone operator, especially if they have a deal or if other services, such as Spotify or Netflix, are included at a discount.

It’s worth doing the calculations based on the total cost over the length of the plan versus the cost of the phone plus that of an equivalent, cheaper SIM-only deal. Keep in mind that if you break the phone, you’ll still be paying for it every month until your contract expires.

time it right

People in front of a Black Friday deal sign on a shop window.
You can often get a bargain on Black Friday, Cyber ​​Monday and the many other annual sales, but compare prices to make sure a ‘sale’ is actually a deal. Photo: Jonathan Cherry/Reuters

Buying a phone at the right time of year can save you big. Bargains can usually be found in traditional sales such as Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day, around Easter and during the back to school period leading up to September.

But individual manufacturers also discount their smartphones at different times, depending on their annual release cycles of new devices. Some manufacturers, including Samsung and Google, are offering discounts and free gifts with very early pre-orders for their new phones before release, which can be worth it.

Samsung usually releases its premium S-series smartphones in January, which are then discounted in summer sales. Apple’s iPhones are rarely heavily discounted, but are usually cheapest in August leading up to the release of a new version in September, with savings of up to £150 depending on the model, according to data from the price tracking site. CamelCamelCamel

Trade in or sell your old one

Trading in your old phone is a great way to recoup some of its value or get a discount on a new model. Apple and Samsung are offering up to £470 off their new phones and Google up to £676, depending on the model, make and condition of the phone you’re trading in.

Alternatively, you can sell your phone to a refurb for cash. There are a number of retailers that buy old technology, including high street and online phones, including: CeXMusicMagpieEnvirophone and many others. Mobile operators including: EEGiffgaffO2ThreeVodafone and others also buy used phones like Carphone Warehouse and other phone shops.

Comparison sites can help you find the best price. They contain SellMyMobileCompare and recycle and Compare My Mobile† And just like buying a new phone, timing matters for trade-ins if you want to maximize your return.

“We predict that the price for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 will drop by approximately 22% between now and the launch of a new model in October 2022,” said Denise Timmis, brand manager for Envirofone. “That means trade-in values ​​up to £157 less for the iPhone 13 Pro Max and up to £125 for iPhone 12 Pro.”

If your phone is in good condition and you’re willing to put in some work, you can make more money by selling it privately on eBay or other marketplaces. Check recently sold prices on the sites to see how many comparable phones are going.

Buy renovated

Not only is this better for the planet, it can also be good for your wallet. Recent data from Giffgaff showed you could save around 50kg of carbon and an average of £200 by buying refurbished compared to new. While the biggest bargains can be found on older devices, recent top-of-the-line models can often be refurbished by both manufacturers and third parties after about six months of release. They usually cost £50-100 less than the MSRP.

“At a time when many people are really feeling the rising cost of living, refurbished appliances can be a great option,” said Ash Schofield, Giffgaff’s CEO. “You still get that new phone feel, without breaking the bank. Our research shows that while some people see refurb technology as a viable option, quite a few are still missing out on the savings.”

There are plenty of places to buy refurbished models† Those direct from the manufacturer are often the best ones that have been completely overhauled to new standards, but most phone or tech stores, mobile operators and specialist fixers sell models in various conditions and prices from near new to worn out but still functional.

Retrieve older models with long software support

The latest models are the most expensive, so buying a one or two year old phone, both new and refurbished, can save you a pack, but only if you pick the right model.

Unfortunately, not all manufacturers offer permanent software support for their smartphones. Many offer updates for only two or three years from a handset’s release date. Regular security updates are crucial to the safe use of a smartphone, so if a model is no longer supported, you should stop using it.

Only Apple and Samsung offer as many as five years or more of software support for their recent smartphones, making their older models like the iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20 still worth buying. Google recently pledged to support its Pixel phones for five years, but only from this year Pixel 6 further.

The home button on the iPhone SE (2022).
Apple’s iPhone SE (2022) is particularly affordable, offering the company’s best chip, 5G, and more than six years of software support. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

While top-end phones are the most exciting, mid-range smartphones have improved a lot in recent years and can be had for significantly less. However, not all mid-tier phones are created equal, with much of the long-term lack of software support.

Highlights include: Apple’s iPhone SE (£470) and Samsung’s Galaxy A-series (from £129), which get four to seven years of software support, depending on the model.

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