Phones
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Smart phone deals

The bad news for devout Apple disciples is that big brand smart phones are not getting any cheaper. The iPhone and its derivatives continue to command astronomical monthly fees from their users - and there aren't too many pennies to be saved on the additional cost of apps and accessories either. If you're looking to get your hands on a cutting edge mobile but struggling to make the numbers work, you've come to the right place.

First, ask yourself: what do I need from my phone? It's no good signing up for a costly long-term contract if you don't require the premium rate services. Do you mainly use it to make calls and texts, or are you constantly logging on to check out the latest travel forecast? Are you ringing up friends and family for a quick chit-chat, or liaising with business associates for hours on end?

Once you've got all this figured out, you're in a much stronger position when it comes to negotiating your terms - even where your existing deal is concerned. Service providers are super competitive, and in most cases, are prepared to cut your costs if they fear losing you to a rival network - so if you do find a better deal, it's worth investigating whether your current one is prepared to match it.

Failing that, signing up for a new contract - and getting your hands on an upgraded model - is often expensive, but between online and in-store offers, there is plenty of wiggle room on the final outlay.

In the UK, your first port of call for a contract phone is probably mobilephonesdirect.co.uk - an online retailer which specialises in affordable smart phone packages. Currently, they sell the new iPhone 6s with unlimited minutes and texts and 6GB of data for £39 a month and no upfront costs - though this deal is only available with Vodafone on a fixed 24-month contract.

To give you some idea of the value, Vodafone's online shop offer the same terms for £49 a month on top of a standard upfront fee. As well as some generous cash back terms, Mobile Phones Direct also purport to accord their customers a smoother transition than their rivals, delivering phones and commencing contracts in a timely fashion so that they are not left in limbo for too long (though this very much depends upon whom you ask - for every few satisfied customers, there is the odd disgruntled one too).

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If you're looking for some handy perks to supplement a pay-as-you-go deal, Tesco Mobile currently offer a selection of interesting bundles, including 5000 monthly texts for £5. The advantage of taking this route over that of a contract is more flexibility: you can cancel your subscription just as soon as you stop needing it, and allocate your budget on a month-by-month basis according to your needs. Unlimited texts is fine in theory but we seldom send enough to justify the premium monthly fee.

The upside of going directly to the high street to find your deal is that you can take the phone for a test drive before you commit to a contract - this is of little benefit to regular smart phone users as upgraded models tend to usher in only minor cosmetic change - but can be useful if you are a first-time buyer. You can also ask for some help in setting everything up, and walk out then and there with a ready-to-use phone, saving you from having to endure a few days off the grid. But this all comes with some considerable extra cost - even factoring in savings made on delivery charges.