Mobile Phones

Guide to getting the best mobile phone deal

In partnership with www.cable.co.uk Ofcom accredited mobile, broadband and TV comparison site

Is there an item more essential to help navigate the complexity of modern day life than a mobile phone?

No, there isn’t.

So, whilst you’re studying at Bangor University you’ll probably want to find a good value mobile phone deal to help you stay in touch with friends both here and back home.

Whether you choose to use a handset you bought with you or obtain a new phone from a UK provider, here are five FAQs to find the right mobile phone deal for you.

Which mobile network offers the best coverage in Bangor?

There are currently four major mobile network providers operating in the UK: Three, O2, EE and Vodafone. Other mobile providers, like giffgaff and Virgin Mobile, use one of these networks to carry their signal.

The good news is that if you own a 3G or 4G mobile phone network providers predict a good level of calls, texts and 3G internet coverage in Bangor. Currently, only EE offers a 4G connection in Bangor, so if you want to take advantage of 4G’s faster connection speed, that’s where you have to head.

When deciding which UK network to go with, as well as checking mobile coverage at your student address, it is a good idea to check signal strength of any other locations where you might stay, for example, a work placement as part of your course. Each provider has their own mobile network coverage checker on their website.

Be aware that these maps have been known to be inaccurate on occasions and it’s not unheard of for new customers to find their shiny new handset doesn’t work at home as they’d been lead to believe.

Signal reception can be affected by things like walls, nearby buildings and even trees, but if you do find you’re not getting the signal you expected, particularly at your home address, it’s always worthwhile complaining. Some providers can offer a ‘signal booster’ (such as Three Mobile’s ‘Home Signal’ box) which uses your home broadband connection to route your call.

Be aware that you will need broadband for this to work, and you’ll have to ensure it doesn’t take you over any download limits – but it can be a great solution. If you need broadband at home, but sure to use an Ofcom accredited broadband, TV and phone comparison site to make sure you can properly judge what’s most appropriate for your needs. You’ll be able to see exactly what deals and speeds are available at your postcode.

3G and 4G mobile phones – what is the difference?

If you are looking to buy a new handset whilst you are here, you are likely to encounter the terms ‘3G’ and ‘4G’.

The ‘G’ stands for the different generations of mobile phone technology and each version is an upgrade on the previous generation.

3G is currently the most widely available mobile technology in the UK and it allows users to download web pages and stream music and videos on their mobile – sometimes as quickly as they would on a computer with a fixed-line broadband connection.

4G is the latest phase of mobile innovation and EE – currently the only UK network to offer 4G mobile compatible handsets and coverage in Bangor – claim data transfer is up to five times faster than 3G. This is a bonus if you use your phone to stream live TV, watch films or send large documents.

Another thing to consider is ‘tethering’ – where you can use a smart phone to get broadband internet access to a laptop or other device. This can be useful if you need to get online whilst away from home, but not all providers allow it, and those that do sometimes impose restrictions.

Which is better value for money, ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ (PAYG) or a contract mobile phone?

The two main ways to buy a phone in the UK are to buy a PAYG phone or SIM, where you only pay for the calls, texts and data you use, or by entering into a fixed-term contract, where you get a monthly allowance of inclusive calls texts and minutes.

To help you decide which is the best method for you here are the advantages and disadvantages:

Contract/Pay monthly – the main advantages with a contract mobile phone is convenience. As well as having your choice of the latest handsets, you can choose a call plan best suited to your needs. This includes a set amount of inclusive minutes, texts and data for each month. As you pay a set amount each month by direct debit for the duration of the contract you don’t have to top up your phone with credit. This saves time and you’ll always be in a position to make or receive calls.

The disadvantages of contract mobiles are you’re committed to your contract for a set term, usually 24 months. If you want to opt-out early most providers charge a fee.

Pay-As-You-Go – the main benefit of PAYG is flexibility – you aren’t tied into a monthly contract. Instead you use your existing handset (or purchase one) and pay for your calls, texts and data in advance. This means you can stop the service when you want, which may be useful if you plan to return home when term finishes, or you want to swap to a better PAYG deal.

The main disadvantages are that, on the whole, calls and texts cost more, so if you use your phone regularly it will probably work out cheaper to take out a contract mobile. You also have to remember to add credit to your phone.

As well as the above two options, you can also choose a SIM-only deal, which has elements of both contract and PAYG phones.

A SIM-only deal involves buying a SIM card and using it in your existing handset. This gives you a certain amount of calls, texts and data. However, unlike a contract phone, SIM-only deals can run on 30-day rolling contracts, so when that time is up you can either change to another deal or carry on. If you don’t want to upgrade your current handset, SIM-only deals offer a good combination of flexibility and reliability.

What if I need to call overseas?

If you’ve got family or friends outside of the UK and think you’ll be making lots of calls to them while you’re studying at Bangor, it’s a good idea to investigate mobile networks that are specialists in international call tariffs.

Lebara Mobile, for example, offers PAYG SIM-only deals specifically aimed at international students. You can get a free SIM from their site with unlimited calls and text to other Lebara customers in the UK, or SIM-cards pre-loaded with credit.

Calls start at just 1p a minute to overseas landlines and mobiles and as low as 3p for text messages, with prices listed clearly on their site for countries from Afghanistan through to Zimbabwe. We’ve found the most frequently called overseas locations for international Bangor students, and listed the prices to call there below. There’s a bit of a common theme in how much it costs to send an SMS, as you’ll shortly see.

Calls to the USA start at 9p per minute to landlines and 69p per minute to US mobiles, while texts are 19p per message. You can call India for 2p a minute to landlines and mobiles and 19p per SMS. Nigerian landline calls are 1p per minute and 8p per minute to mobiles, with SMS messages again at 19p each.

Bahrain costs slightly more at 5p for landline calls per minute and 9p per minute for calls to mobiles. In both cases, you can send an SMS for 12p.

Saudi Arabia can be called for 5p per minute to landlines, 12p per minute to mobiles in the country and 19p for each SMS. Finally, calls to Iraq landlines are 5p per minute, 15p per minute to call landlines, and 19p per SMS.

How much data do I need?

If, like most people, you use your mobile to keep up to date with friends on Facebook, send and receive emails and browse the internet then you need to consider how much data you need.

Not having enough data means you could incur charges from your provider for exceeding your monthly limit. Or, if you rarely use the internet then you could end up for paying for a function you don’t use.

The standard data allowance for most mobile phones is often around 1GB-3GB which, as general rule, is adequate for most mobile phone users.

That said, if you enjoy streaming music or watching movies or TV every day, this will quickly consume a standard allowance, so you’ll need to consider a plan with more data. To help calculate how much data you need all the leading mobile providers offer detailed information on their websites outlining different mobile activities and how much data it uses.

Where can I get more advice and test handsets in Bangor?

All the main mobile networks have outlets in Bangor. Their advisors will be happy to discuss call plans, answer your queries and show you the latest handsets.

  • EE: Unit 17, Deiniol Centre, High Street, Bangor – 0845 097 1152
  • Three Store: Menai Court, Garth Road, Bangor – 01248 371 011
  • Vodafone: Unit 10, Deiniol Centre, High Street, Bangor – 0870 070 0191
  • 02 Shop: 254 High Street, Bangor – 01248 372 352
  • Carphone Warehouse: Unit 16, Deiniol Centre, Bangor – 08435 380 978