How do I upgrade my phone?

ByKim Staples
Old Nokia phone

So you’re coming to the end of your phone contract, and you’re tired of dragging around an ancient brick of a mobile. It’s time for a new one.

But before you get excited about getting a snazzy iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, make sure you read up on the best way to upgrade.

Should I stay with my network, or switch to a new one?

It depends entirely on what kind of deals are available to you.

It also depends on how much time you have left on your current contract. An early upgrade usually incurs a fee, but if you're in the window for an upgrade, your network may be able to offer you special deal on a new phone.

However… that doesn't mean you have to take it. Once you've picked out a phone you'd like, it's always wise to look around and see what sort of deals are available from other networks too

Bear in mind that a lot of networks will also allow you to trade in your old handset for cash - which could mean a nice discount on a new one. 

iPhone 7 Apple iPhone 7 EE logo

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

5GB data

£50.99 per month

£49.99 upfront

24 month contract

Get deal
Samsung Galaxy S7 Samsung Galaxy S7 BT logo

1000 minutes

Unlimited texts

3GB data

£35.00 per month

£20.00 upfront

24 month contract

Get deal
LG G5 LG G5 Three

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

4GB data

£25.00 per month

£26.99 upfront

24 month contract

Get deal
HTC 10 HTC 10 O2

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

5GB data

£38.00 per month

£25.00 upfront

24 month contract

Get deal

Upgrading your current contract


Upgrading on O2

O2 Refresh contracts work by splitting your bill into the 'Device Plan' (the cost of your handset) and 'Airtime Plan' (the cost of your O2 tariff). Once the price of your device has been paid off, the bill practically halves - and you can add a new phone onto it at any point after then. Or, if you want to upgrade early, you'll just have to pay off the remaining cost of the phone.

Of course, if you're not on O2 Refresh, you can still upgrade whenever you like, though you may need to pay a larger early upgrade fee.

Find out if you can upgrade by logging onto your account or contacting O2.

Upgrading on Three

Three often has special deals that are only available for upgrading customers, which you can access from 30 days before your contract ends. You can still upgrade earlier than that if you wish, though you'll have to pay a fee, equal to the cost of the remaining months of your contract. On a one-month SIM plan, you can upgrade once you've been on the plan for three months.

Upgrade by contacting Three or visiting the website.

Upgrading on EE

With EE, you can upgrade to a new phone once you have less than 45 days left in your contract, so long as your bill is up to date. You'll also qualify for an early upgrade if you're more than six months into your contract, though it'll incur a fee - usually the contract's remaining costs. The same conditions here apply if you signed a contract with Orange or T-Mobile too, both of which are run by EE now. Again, there are a range of special upgrade deals available just for existing customers.

EE also runs a Recycle and Reward scheme, in which you can get cash for trading in your old handset.

Find out if you can upgrade by logging onto your account or contacting EE.

Upgrading on Vodafone

A Vodafone contract can usually be upgraded 30 days before it runs out, or 60 days if you're on a Red plan. If you want to upgrade sooner than that, you can, but you'll have to pay off the remaining line rental on your contract.

Upgrade by visiting the Vodafone website or contacting them directly.

Upgrading on Talkmobile

Phones on a Talkmobile plan can be upgraded up to 90 days before your contract ends, provided you're up to date with your bill. You're free to cancel your contract at any time, of course, but before those final 90 days it'll incur a fee equal to the remaining cost of your plan.

Talkmobile has a dedicated range of plans just for existing customers who want to upgrade, too.

Upgrade your plan by contacting Talkmobile.

Upgrading on Virgin Mobile

You can upgrade a contract with Virgin Mobile up to a month before the end of your contract. If you want to upgrade early, you'll need to contact its customer service team to see if you're eligible - and bear in mind you'll need to pay off the cost of the handset in full if you haven't already done so. Freestyle Contracts work a little differently: you can upgrade whenever you want, simply by paying off the cost of the phone credit agreement.

The Virgin Media Recycle service is also there to give you some cash back on your old phone.

To upgrade, either contact Virgin Mobile, or pick a new Virgin Mobile plan and tell Virgin that you're an existing customer when you reach the checkout.

Upgrading on giffgaff

Since giffgaff provides SIM-only deals, on phones that have been bought outright, there isn't really an upgrade scheme - you can buy a new phone and put your SIM in it whenever you want.

The 'contracts' you can get on handsets from giffgaff are in fact loans, which work differently from regular phone contracts. To upgrade a phone you have a giffgaff loan on, contact the network to discuss paying it off.

Upgrading on Tesco Mobile

With an Anytime Upgrade contract from Tesco Mobile, your bill is split into the phone payment (the cost of the handset) and usage payment (the cost of your minutes, texts, and data). If you decide you want to upgrade your mobile, you can do so at any point by paying off whatever's left of the phone payment to cancel the contract. Then, you can choose a new phone and start afresh with a brand new contract.

For a regular Pay Monthly contract, you'll need to pay an early upgrade fee if you want to upgrade before the contract ends - equal to the remaining payments on your contract minus VAT. You'll get a 30% discount if you upgrade to an Anytime Upgrade deal, however.

For SIM-only, your upgrade time depends on how long you've been with the network. You can upgrade from SIM-only to a phone contract at any point with no early upgrade fee.

Upgrading on LIFE Mobile

You can upgrade on a LIFE Mobile plan from six months into your contract. On SIM-only you can upgrade for free from this point, but on a phone contract it's only free during the last 60 days of the plan. Otherwise, you'll need to pay an early upgrade fee.

Contact LIFE Mobile to ugprade.

Finding a better deal

Not sure you want to stick with the same network? Shopping around is a great idea. Take a look at our best contract deals this month - or pick out a new mobile from our top phones of 2015. And don't forget to read our phone reviews for the complete lowdown on some of our favourite models.


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