All the smartphone you’ll ever need…for £7.50 a month

etToday I’m going to tell you how to buy and operate a phone in the UK.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in respecting individual choice and the wisdom of crowds etc etc.

But it has been brought to the attention of The Escape Artist that most people are doing it wrong when it comes to buying stuff. Buying and using a mobile phone is just another example of this.

This was prompted by a recent discussion I had about mobile phones with a high-earning and (until recently) high-spending go-getter. They’d moved to the USA to take a high powered sales role and had been living at Ground Zero for consumerism, the affluent suburbs within commuting range of New York City.

Having been alerted to this blog (by a thoughtful reader paying it forward) they’d discovered the concept of financial independence. This had prompted a big re-think and they’re now in the process of pulling a Mustachian 180….downshifting to a smaller house back in the UK and living gloriously mortgage-free for the first time….with the prospect of full financial independence now tantalisingly close.

They’d prepared a budget and we were running through the line items with what they planned to spend each month.  For phones, they had budgeted £100 per month per head for each family member.

WTAF? Please forgive the 1980s reference, but not even E.T. should be spending that much on their phone bill.

I should admit upfront that, in the past, The Escape Artist has made mistakes at both ends of the phone cost spectrum. For example, I once had a £36 a month contract.  And at another time in my life, I was at £0 per month as I tried to do without a mobile phone as a cost saving measure.

The results of this experiment were clear: I realised almost immediately that operating in the modern world requires having a mobile phone that works.  Only Buddhist monks or penny-pinching clowns ditch a mobile phone altogether.

We are not about deprivation or missing out around here. So remember the difference between being cheap and being frugal. Mobile phones are a tool which can allow you to make more money, connect with other people and enhance your life.

So mobile phones are (on balance) a good thing. But phone contracts are a bad thing. No discussion of mobile phones would be complete without dealing with those long contracts (eg 3 years) that the phone retailers and networks often push people towards.  As a general rule, these are insane.

Flexibility and options are valuable in life. Contracts limit your options. So only a clown ties themselves up in knots like this.  Every year, the cost of technology goes down and the kit gets better. In an environment like that, The Escape Artist does not sign up for any 3 year nonsense and neither should you.

So you are gonna want a pay as you go phone. How to choose?  Well, you are not gonna want one that is heavily advertised on TV etc. You want to be paying for phone, not for expensive TV or billboard advertising. You do not want The One That All The Kool Kidz have got.

You are gonna want one either marketed as a budget solution or, even better, not heavily marketed at all…but one that turned into a hit via word of mouth. One where other people have recommended it on internet forums etc.

Do you remember The Alignment of Interests?  If not, go back and read that. You’re looking for advice from smart people whose interests are (mostly) aligned with yours. And if you haven’t tried putting “what is the best value smart phone in the UK?” into Google, then really, you have to ask yourself: dude, are you even trying?

The Escape Artist is no gadget monkey. Until recently, I had an old skool Blackberry with a reassuringly clunky (and clicky) keypad that earned me curious looks from the aforementioned Kool Kidz.

But, after several years of happy usage, it recently packed up on me. So I was forced into the market for a new smartphone.   I got googling and quickly found a few techmag articles about good value smartphones.

It soon became obvious that the Motorola Moto G5 is a great option. And, 4 months later, I can confidently say the Moto G5 is more phone than anyone would ever need.

[As an aside: The main problem with the Moto G5 is not the lack of functionality. No, the main problem with the Moto G5 is the same as with all smartphones: its the operator. It’s people like you and me who have an unfortunate tendency to find their smartphone more fascinating than real life. That’s because the operator is a chimp who finds the kitten clips and the internet sexytime videos irresistible].

I then did some research on which network to use.  Basically, this is easy: you choose an alternative providers that piggybacks off one of the big networks.  So, giffgaff (who I ended up going with) uses the o2 network and yet charges way less than o2.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere about the size of mark up you are paying by just choosing a major “name” without price comparison.

You can buy your Moto G5 online from Amazon or giffgaff. It cost me £149 for the famcypants more memory version with 16GB and 3 GB RAM. This was less than I could have got it for elsewhere (you benefit from their bulk purchasing power).  And this price included next day delivery to my door. Like I said before: why would anyone go to a shop?

For comparison, a new iPhone 8 currently costs about £700.

There are 2 ways to look at this choice. The first way says: OMG, for £149 I just bought more computing power than The Pentagon had to fight World War 3 in the 1990s.  I get a super-computer with voice recognition, fingerprint unlock, GPS, camera, email, a zillion apps and access to pretty much all the information ever discovered.

The second way to look at it is to say….yeah but the camera on the iPhone 8 has more pixels….as if anyone sensible would even know or care about the difference.  For the avoidance of doubt, this second way is for LOSERS.  This is a game you can’t win because there is always some clown with a bigger boat (or fancier phone….or whatever).

Get a free giffgaff SimYou then just have to choose a monthly package. I started off with the giffgaff £10 a month package which gives 3GB of data and unlimited calls (you can use this affiliate link to get started plus £5 free credit).

After a month or two, I realised that I wasn’t using all the data allowance so I dropped down to the £7.50 per month option. With giffgaff you can change your monthly bundle at any time.

So if the £7.50 package doesn’t cover your usage, you can easily go back up to £10 per month.  If the £10 a month package isn’t enough, that may be a sign you need to need to watch fewer kitten videos and do something more useful instead.

The technology and the market for phones change quickly.  So I’m not sure whether the Moto G5 plus giffgaff is still the best value solution.  Hell, I don’t even know if it was the absolute best solution when I got mine a few months ago. No doubt there are other options that are as good (and maybe cheaper…if so, feel free to make suggestions in the comments).

But it doesn’t matter. You see, perfection is not required. What’s important here are the timeless principles of not being a consumer clown and not being ripped off by The Man.


Further reading:

fin-coaching-widget

  1. There is always some clown with a bigger boat
  2. Why would anyone go shopping?
  3. Financial coaching

22 comments

  1. This made me laugh – totally agree, why spend £700 on an iPhone when you can get a perfectly suitable phone for 7 times less???? And I’m also a giffgaff user and fan (there are some pretty sweet deals if you refer someone else…)

  2. I have a Moto G5 plus a late model iPhone. One I pay for, the other my employer does but I hope I don’t need to explain which way round that is. I have yet to find anything the iPhone can do that the G5 cannot do just as well or better. I have had to avoid GiffGaff as the 02 network does not cover where I live – Yet.

  3. i had no idea that networks can piggybank off other networks? this is interesting! how do you figure out which one relates to which?

  4. I use Tesco mobile (piggy backs O2), so with a family discount I’m paying £7 a month for 1 Gig data. ( my total monthly mobile bill for a family of 4 smart phones is £31.50, all on SIM only 12 month contracts)
    Very happy with my 2 year old Moto G4, my son has a Huawei, both about £170 new, and do everything I need a smart phone to do. iphones were lovely in their day, I had an iphone 3G, but android has caught up and iphones are now silly money, very unfrugal.

  5. Pay as you go is the way forward. But your preaching to the converted here I think. The latest shitephone 15 on a £60/month contract with 100,000gb of data is a must for anyone infected with the dreaded affluenza. Don’t EE do a £1/week payg that builds up it’s allowances?
    Of course those infected zombies purchase their shitephones of us readers as we all probably have shares in the fruit company that make them, so hey ho, they can just keep upgrading every two years!

  6. Survivor · · Reply

    Moto G4 here, ~£125 on deal from amazon around 3 years ago if I remember rightly, also ~£7.50 a month currently, which lets me do all I need…..

    Does anyone know if a decent provider exists, registered anywhere in Europe that will give a reasonable price for a basic service covering the whole region, for someone travelling for 1 – 3 years at a time? [but still including UK access too …..for a newly FI, demob-happy acquaintance with a plan]

  7. I use Three 321. It’s a genuine PAYG e.g. None of this £x a month nonsense. I pay no more than £2-3 a month but I am careful to not use much data on 3/4G.

  8. Three are pretty good if you’re travelling. Roaming data and calls to UK are free in North and South America, and quite a few countries in Asia.
    If Brexit happens and EU roaming charges return, they have said they intend to keep free data and calls.

  9. donaldtramp1 · · Reply

    Made me smile.
    Just last week i caught up with a group of mates and during the conversation one of the guys dropped in that he had the latest iphone. I smiled as i showed my really elderly samsung (on which I’m typing this). But then he told the boys that he had just bought another expensive jewellery man watch which apparently had a special bezel that you wore on your right wrist??? Yes. Thats exactly what i thought! You really don’t know how hard it was not to show any signs of mirth!
    I find it amazing (since I’ve started down this road) that people can actually still think like this! Its now almost an alien world to me.

  10. The EE £1 a week payg pack that Quitting Teaching mentioned is great. Every 3 months you get to boost permanently either your data, call or text allowance – we’ve been on this for 3 years now and very rarely run out of data (although we didn’t much at the start either as probably use phones most on wifi at home anyway, plus there was a monthly back up data allowance you could dip into before you paid extra).
    Moto G5 is a top tip – thanks.

  11. ladyaurora · · Reply

    I was thinking about a new phone , looks like it will be the moto g5
    as far as my contract goes , I beat my broad band provider down and got it for £3 a month, unbelievable

  12. I bought my youngest daughter the G5 yesterday as a birthday present. £129 SIM free fro the phone. £9 per month contract on Tesco Mobile. Absolutely as much phone as anyone needs.

    1. Forgot to add. Tesco allows for capped usage which is great for kids. No bill shock, ever.

  13. MattOfCov · · Reply

    I too have a Motorola phone (Moto E) and I’ve recently switched to PAYG with Asda Mobile. They’re piggybacked on EE’s network and for pure-PAYG they only charge 8p/minute. Last I checked Vodafone charged about 30p/minute!
    Asda also do some good value 30-day bundles of minutes, texts and data.

  14. faithless · · Reply

    Yep, I’ve had the Moto G5 for 12 months now, my partner has had his for a month less. I got the Amazon one with 3GB of RAM, (was only 2GB everywhere else, as it was only £20 more and seemed worth the extra to future proof it a bit). Paid £177 a year ago, now £149. It’s done everything my old Samsung S5 did before it broke, and more. The outer casing feels a bit cheaper but I put a case on it anyway so who cares?

    I’m on Plusnet, which piggybacks off EE network. I pay £10 for a rolling 30 day contract for 5GB, unlimited calls/texts. A current offer seems to be £8 for 3.5 GB, 1000m, 2000 texts:
    https://www.hotukdeals.com/deals/35gb-data-1000-minutes-2000-text-30-days-sim-8-month-plusnet-mobile-uswitch-exclusive-2920266

  15. “Only Buddhist monks or penny-pinching clowns ditch a mobile phone altogether” – hopefully I’m at the monk end of the spectrum!

  16. I buy Xiaomi phones for the family from the Chinese websites (gearbest is reliable and honest). The downside is they take a few weeks to arrive, the upside is iPhone quality kit for typically sub £80. My personal phone is the Xiaomi Mi Max 2, a behemoth of a massive phone (necessary for work) but with incredible battery, screen, camera and all the bells and whistles you could possible want for about £150. Easily as good as the best out there.

    All that coupled with a cheap SIM from ID Mobile (off the back of the 3 network) and I’m laughing all the way to the bank.

    1. OysterChris · · Reply

      For the last few years my wife and I have had second hand phones for £100 from my work where lots of people have too much money and replace their phones every year. We keep them for two years or so. This year I think we’ll both get a Xiaomi Note 4 for about the same price. We use PlusNet mobile having tried Giffgaff and Lifemobile which were both poor for reliability and customer service. Now we pay £5 a month each for 3Gb of data.
      If you go with PlusNet see if you can get Quidco cashback, or wait for a special deal. If you miss the deal then you can still ring up and ask and they should put you on it, he said he could see the last 6 weeks of offers I think.

  17. ladyaurora · · Reply

    This is a great post , everyone chipping in with their money saving best mobile phones and super contract deals. Martin Lewis step aside !!

  18. Richard · · Reply

    I did this with the exact same phone, but 6 months ago from Mobile Phones Direct.

    I got the phone for free with 2gb data, unlimited texts and unlimited minutes for £10pm for 2 years. The only catch is I have to claim £8pm cash back every 6 months but that literally takes 5 minutes (you just email in your bill).

    The current offer is £13pm (see: https://www.mobilephonesdirect.co.uk/contract-mobile-phones/motorola-moto-g5).

    1. David Andrews · · Reply

      Hope you went through Quidoco Topcashabck too. Lots of really good deals if you put in a bit of research.My first stop is usually https://www.mobilephonechecker.co.uk/ I then crosscheck the dealsagainst Topcashback or Quidco for (potentially) some more money off.

  19. Amazing deals on the comments here!

    Have to about to splashing out on a Google pixel 2 as in previous experience the Google phones have been the best ones I’ve used (Nexus 4 previously and used it for a good 4/5 years). Tried a Sony z5 for about £200 refurbed but the camera was too slow, no good with a toddler!

    Very happy with the purchase so far, camera is fast and pretty amazing. Cost me £450 (refurbed off e bay) which I guess goes totally against this thread but barring any disasters it should last me at least another 4/5 years. Also my bill is paid by my employer so I felt justified in spending a bit more on the handset. If that were not the case no doubt I’d have gone for a sub £200 range phone as there are a few out there that look pretty good.

    Re the Motorola G5 I don’t think I could do with 16GB or even 32GB storage. Does it accept memory cards?
    I saw there’s a G6 for about 200 with 64GB so that could be another option for those with “storage anxiety”

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