Mobile Phone Guide
Choosing a mobile phone deal can be a confusing process – there seems to be a dizzying number of options and providers. Our quick guide will help you understand the basics and have the resources you need to get set up with a UK mobile number.
Your mobile phone needs will depend on how much you plan to use your phone in the UK, and for what: making calls in the UK or abroad, messaging, using social media, watching streaming services. This will determine what kind of package suits you best.
The main options for mobiles in the UK are SIM only pay as you go, SIM only monthly plan, and a longer term contract.
SIM only pay as you go
Pros: allows you to use your existing handset (provided it is unlocked to accept a SIM card from any network). There is no monthly commitment, which means you can change network when you like. You need to top-up each month in order to activate the minutes, texts and data included in the plan. As you have to top up your credit in advance, you cannot overspend without realising it.
Cons: would not suit you if you use your phone a lot, as the costs of calls, texts and data is likely to be more expensive than a contract or SIM only deal.
SIM only deals
Pros: allows you to use your existing handset (provided it is unlocked to accept a SIM card from any network). There is a lot of flexibility in the length of plans available– ranging from 0 months (which you can cancel at any time), up to 12, 18 or 24 months. SIM only monthly plans usually attract better offers on free minutes, texting and data and other perks than pay as you go. Similarly, the longer the length of the plan, the more generous the deal is likely to be.
Cons: while you agree to pay a fixed amount each month, you can be billed for any extra services if you go over your monthly allocation of minutes, texts or data. Most providers offer a free service to warn you if this is about to happen so be sure to set this up, and an option to buy additional ‘bundles’ of minutes or data. You will be ‘locked into’ your contract plan for the agreed period (12, 18 or 24 months) unless you have chose the ‘no contract’ option which should allow you to cancel at any time. A contract plan is a credit agreement. You must be sure you keep up with payments until the end of the contract, otherwise it is likely to affect your UK credit record, which can have implications for future credit agreements.
Pros: as the name suggests this kind of contract includes a handset, so this will suit you if you do not already have one or are looking to upgrade. Some contracts include perks like access to a particular streaming service for a fixed period.
Cons: you will be ‘locked into’ your contract plan for the agreed period (12, 18 or 24 months). Because the cost of your plan includes paying for the handset, the monthly fee is likely to be higher than a SIM only deal. A contract plan is a credit agreement. You must be sure you keep up with payments until the end of the contract, otherwise it is likely to affect your UK credit record, which can have implications for future credit agreements.
The main UK network providers are:
They also support many of the smaller mobile networks who ‘piggyback’ on their wider network. All four have 99% 4G coverage across the UK. Before you commit to a network you can use the Ofcom mobile coverage checker to make sure it will give you the access you need.
For more information on the different mobile providers see this guide from Compare the Market.
How to choose a deal
There are several mobile phone shops in Brighton and Eastbourne for the major networks. These tend to be situated in the main shopping areas, Churchill Square (Brighton) or the Beacon (Eastbourne). They will only offer the deals available on their network, so if you would like to compare deals across different providers check the USwitch can also help you find a compare SIM only and contract deals across all networks.
Where to buy a SIM card
If you decide to choose a SIM only deal, you can order one from the website of your chosen network to be delivered to you, or go in person to one the shops for a specific network.
Unlocking your phone
If you are planning to use a SIM only deal you will need to make sure your handset is unlocked so it can be used on any network. There are a variety of shops across Brighton and Eastbourne that can unlock mobile phones. We have included details of three shops below, but there are others available.
E-Tech Zone | 82 Queen’s Road | Brighton | BN1 3XE
City Global Links | 154 Western Road | Brighton | BN1 2DA
The Mobile Shop | 55 Susans Road | Eastbourne | BN21 3TG
No website available
Buying a cheap phone and SIM
If when you arrive in the UK you are not able to use your existing mobile phone and need to buy an inexpensive handset with a SIM there are a range available for all the main networks at Argos. This is a UK shop where you can either order items to be delivered to you, or collected in person from one of their stores. You can use this store finder to check the Argos closest to you.
Disclaimer: this information is provided for your guidance. When choosing a mobile phone deal please check all details directly with the provider before committing to a contract.
Updated: September 2023