7 min read

Where's the best place to buy a new phone?

Hannah Patnick
9 June 2017

There's an endless list of places to go to when you need to buy a new phone. So how do you know where to head? Here, we weigh up the options to help you bag the best deal.

Thinking of treating yourself to the latest in smartphone technology? Or perhaps, you simply need a new phone because your current one is on its last legs?

Here's our lowdown on the best places to buy a new phone and why you might choose one over the other.

Buying a phone from your network provider

Most major networks have a very wide selection of phones from several different manufacturers. And you can usually walk into one of their shops, try out different phones and get advice from a customer representative.

However, there’s usually no option to pay for the handset in full up front. Typically, you have to take it out on contract. Some network providers also give customer representatives incentives - such as a commission - when they sell a particular model. This means their advice could be slightly biased.

The pros of buying from a network provider:

  • A very wide selection of handsets, ranging from basic, entry-level phones to the latest high-end smartphones.

  • You can get the latest model with a minimal upfront fee or even no upfront cost at all.

  • Your monthly repayment will include a bundle of minutes, texts and data.

  • Free repair or replacement if your phone is faulty and the fault is covered by your network provider’s terms and conditions. These vary between networks, so it’s best to check first.

The cons of buying from a network provider:

  • Most phones are locked, which means they only work on your provider’s network.

  • You’ll be tied into a contract, usually lasting 24 months. While it’s possible to cancel your contract early, you may have to pay a fee.

  • It’s more expensive than paying for the handset up front or unbundling.

  • You keep paying the same each month even after you’ve paid off the handset cost, which means you’re probably overpaying for the phone.

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Mobile phone contracts and your credit report
When you get a phone on contract, you’re essentially buying it on credit. For this reason, most network providers will carry out a credit check. You may struggle to get a phone on contract if you have a limited credit history or have been turned down for credit before, which is why you should get into the habit of checking your report, fixing any mistakes and working on keeping your score healthy.

Buying a phone directly from the manufacturer

A manufacturer’s website or high street outlet is possibly the most trustworthy place you can get your new phone from, because it comes directly from the source.

Of course, the choice of phones is much more restricted, because you’ll only be able to choose from the manufacturer’s range of devices.

The advantages of buying direct

  • Your phone is unlocked, which means you have complete freedom to pick any network provider you like.

  • It’s cheaper than buying from a network provider.

  • You buy airtime separately, so your monthly phone bill is cheaper.

  • The phone is covered by a warranty, typically for one to two years. It can be repaired or replaced for free if the fault is covered and occurs during the warranty period.

Travelling abroad with your phone
Owning an unlocked phone is especially great if you travel abroad regularly. Because your phone isn’t tied to one particular network, you can save money on roaming charges by switching out your SIM for a local one or for one with lower roaming rates.

The disadvantages of buying direct:

  • You usually cannot pay in installments, which is a problem if you can’t afford the full price upfront. However, you can get around this by taking out a loan for your phone.

  • Your choice is limited to the manufacturer’s range of devices.

  • Not all manufacturers sell phones directly, which can further limit your options.

  • Manufacturers don’t necessarily have the cheapest prices.

Buying a phone from a high street retailer

High street retailers such as Carphone Warehouse give you a range of options. It’s possible both to pay for a phone in full upfront, to spread the cost by taking a loan or, if you prefer, to buy it on contract.

Most shops have a wide range of phones from various manufacturers. And, if you decide to buy on contract, you can compare various deals from different network providers directly in store.

However, you won’t necessarily get the best price possible. Customer representatives are usually incentivised to upsell or push for particular handsets and contract deals, so you may want to do your own research.

The pros of high street retailers:

  • A vast range of unlocked and contract phones from various manufacturers.

  • Regular sales, upgrade deals and other promotions.

  • You can compare monthly deals from different network providers and choose one that best suits your needs and budget.

The cons of high street retailers:

  • Prices aren’t necessarily the cheapest around.

  • The vast majority of contract phones still have an upfront cost.

  • Some retailers may try to pass the buck if your handset develops a fault.

The Consumer Rights Act
The Consumer Rights Act assumes you were sold a defective phone if the fault develops within six months from the date of your purchase. It’s then up to the retailer to prove otherwise.

Buying your phone online

If you’re looking for the cheapest deals possible, online shops are probably your best bet. There are various websites you can look at, such as Amazon, Ebay or specialist shops such as Handtec.

Prices can be a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere, but it’s a good idea to approach with caution. Phones may be second hand, damaged or refurbished. And they may be network locked.

You’ll also need to do your research ahead of time. There’s usually no way you can try before you buy or get advice from a sales representative.

The advantages of buying online:

  • You’ll usually find the cheapest prices anywhere.

The disadvantages of buying online:

  • You’ll need to do your research ahead of time.

  • Keep an eye out for used or damaged devices and other ploys.

  • Not all devices are covered by a guarantee.

by Hannah Patnick

In her previous life Hannah was a consumer journalist making primetime television shows. Now she's ClearScore's Content Producer. Amongst her many talents, Hannah is famed for her excellent tea-making skills.

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