What is a mobile phone?
Mobile phones are a very popular way to keep in touch with others whilst on the move. They can be used to make phone calls and send text messages. Some phones can also be used to send and receive photos and emails, listen to music or the radio, to take photos, and lots more.
Smart phones, such as iPhones and Android phones, are also very popular. Smart phones can do almost everything that a computer can do, such as send emails, create documents, make video calls and connect to wireless internet. You can download applications (or ‘apps’) such as maps, games, Facebook, Twitter, photography, internet radio and much more.
You can purchase a mobile phone handset or contract online, or you can visit a shop. Some shops will offer phone demonstrations and can advise on what phone would suit you best.
Choosing a mobile telephone service
There are two different types of mobile telephone service;
Pay as you go
- This means that you are not committed to a monthly contract.
- You buy a handset and pay for calls and texts in advance by buying ‘credit’ for your phone (also known as ‘topping up’ your phone).
- You may be able to buy a mobile phone handset for around £20.
- Some pay as you go providers now offer reasonable package deals which include free texts and calls when you top up £5 or £10 per month.
- Some providers also offer ‘free sim cards’ (the electronic chip which you slot into the handset which gives you your telephone number and provider). Sim cards are removable so you can put yours into any handset, provided it is on the same network.
- A pay as you go mobile phone may be a good option if you don’t use your phone very often, if you want a mobile phone for emergencies, or if you wish to be more in control of the amount you spend on calls and texts.
- Choosing to enter into a contract for 12, 18 or 24 months with a mobile telephone provider means that you will be billed for your line rental and the calls that you have made every month.
- This may be a good option if you use your telephone often, as many service providers offer a package deal which includes a set amount of ‘free’ calls and texts every month.
- You will also usually receive a free (or heavily discounted) handset and regular upgrades.
- Some contracts also offer incentives and other ‘free’ packages such as ‘data bundles’ to use the internet.
- Contracts tend to be better value for money if you are using a Smart Phone as using the Internet can be expensive on pay as you go phones.
- With a contract you will not ‘run out of credit’, provided you pay your bill.
Choosing a mobile phone
There are a number of mobile phone handsets to choose from. It is a good idea to have a look at the range of offers that are available. Ask yourself
- How often will you use a mobile phone?
- What you will use it for? (Calls? Texts? Photos? Email? Internet?)
- How much do you want to spend?
- What kind of handset do you need?
- Do you need large buttons on your handset?
- Do you need amplified sound on your handset?
- Do you prefer buttons or a touch screen?
What about unexpected charges?
Some phone providers allow you to request a ‘cap’ to be put on your monthly bill, so that you cannot accidentally overspend.
For example, depending on your contact you will only have a limited amount of free ‘data usage’ per month. This relates to how much you can use the Internet per month. If you cap your monthly bill, your phone will stop using the Internet once you reach your data limit and prevent any unexpected charges.
Confused.com have a useful mobile data usage calculator which tells you approximately how long you can spend using the Internet depending on your data limit.
Choosing a mobile phone provider
There are a number of mobile phone providers to choose from. It is a good idea to have a look at the offers that are available to find out what the best deal is for you.
One of the important things to think about is how well your phone will pick up a signal in your area. Different networks and providers have better signals in different areas, so you will want to choose a network that gets a good signal in your area.
You can search different network signal strengths in your area on Ofcoms website.
Here are a list of some of the companies that can provide pay as you go and contract mobile phones.
- Action on Hearing Loss have a range of mobile phones which offer amplified sound.
- RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) have a range of easy-to-use mobile phones which feature large tactile buttons, high contrast screens and text to speech software.
- Doro have a range of easy-to-read mobile phones which feature adjustable text size, large buttons and extra loud sound.
- The PhoneCo-op
- Asda Mobile
- Tesco Mobile
- EE (formerly Organge/T-mobile)
- Carphone Warehouse
Other useful information
- Telephones article
- Getting online and digital equipment article
- Consumer advice
- Digital Unite offer a range of online guides including Top Tips for taking your smart phone abroad.
Guide to using mobile apps securely – guide from Ofcom.
Last updated: March 18, 2022