Mobile phone customers paying £200 more than 3 years ago


Mobile phone customers are paying nearly £200 more for a handset now than they were three years ago, according to new data by price comparison site Uswitch.

The Apple iPhone 8 was the most popular individually sold handset available back in 2018, coming in with a total average cost of £920. In 2021 however, people have forked out between £998 and £1,468 on average for some of the most popular handsets, such as the Apple iPhone 12 and Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. 

Contract payments for top smartphone tech have increased as well. The average monthly cost for the most popular smartphones in 2018 was £39.60. In 2021, this increased to £47.20 on average per month. The most popular contract of 2021 to date is the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (100GB data), costing consumers £55 per month with a £49 upfront payment.

Which is cheaper – handsets or contracts? 

Those opting to buy a contract over an individual handset have tended to hit the nail on the head for savings in 2021 so far. 

The average handset price for the most popular smartphones comes in at £1,101. Combining this with a SIM-only deal to make use of the device, adds an extra £105 on average per year, totalling £1,206.

When it comes to contracts, though, consumers can expect to pay £1,162 on average – £44 less than a handset and SIM-only deal.

Savvy shoppers who are still happy with their handset at the end of their contract will be pleased to hear that SIM-only deals now provide 5GB more data, on average, than they did three years ago – all for the same cost. 

Says Uswitch’s mobiles expert, Catherine Hiley:

“With new tech features and applications built in, the price of smartphones has skyrocketed in recent years. But there are many ways to push costs down and still get top of the range tech. 

“It is worth shopping around for the right features and data allowance and deciding whether getting a SIM-only deal is an option for you. Keep an eye out for bonus features as well. Many smartphone contracts come with free subscriptions to services such as Disney+ and Amazon Prime, which may save you money elsewhere”. 

Top 5 tips for saving money when buying a new mobile phone. 

1. How much data do you need? Log into your account on your network’s website to check your usage. If at the end of the month, you’re still left with lots of unused data, you’re probably paying for a data allowance that’s too generous for your needs. You can also check this by measuring how much mobile data the apps on your phone are using, via the Settings menu. 

2. SIM-only switching: If your contract is ending, you may benefit from shopping around for a SIM-only contract. These often come with a cheaper price tag, and will likely have a better data allowance. The average SIM-only deal could cost £600 less on average, than a 24-month iPhone 8 contract (based on prices 2 years ago to date).

3. Choose a refurbished phone: a refurbished phone is generally one that has been pre-owned. They come in varying conditions (graded A to D) but are thoroughly checked to ensure they are in full working order. You’ll find they’re almost always sold cheaper and often come with a warranty, as well as a charging cable. There is no guarantee you will receive the other accessories, however. These may particularly suit those looking to get the latest tech, but who are not looking to buy into a longer-term contract. 

4. Use of fixed data cap: if you choose to go with a contract, ensure you select one with the capability to put a fixed data cap in place. This means you will receive a notification if you reach your data limit, so you won’t overspend without realising. You can get in touch with your mobile provider to request a cap be placed on your data in some cases.

5. Are there any add ons? These days, a lot of phone packages come with really attractive perks, such as free access to big-name streaming services. Many networks provide access to streaming services such as Disney+, Amazon Prime or Britbox completely free for existing customers. So, think beyond the handset model if you’re looking to save money.  

Table 1: Most popular mobile handsets (sold individually)



Handset (most popular 1-5)

Average total cost

Handset (most popular 1-5)

Average total cost

1. Apple iPhone 8


1. Apple iPhone 12


2. Samsung Galaxy S9


2. Apple iPhone 11


3. Apple iPhone 7


3. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max


4. Samsung Galaxy S8


4. Apple iPhone 12 Pro


5. Apple iPhone X


5. Samsung Galaxy S21 5G


Source: site data



Chris Price
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