A mobile phone contract is a mobile plan that includes two things: a phone, and a SIM with a monthly allowance of data, texts, and calls. You're contracted into the deal long-term - usually two years - and pay your bill every month.
There may be an upfront fee as well, but it's far, far lower than the cost of buying the phone outright.
In other words, it's a deal that means you can get a brand new smartphone for an affordable price.
(Already got a phone, or plan on buying one? All you need is a SIM card. SIM-only deals.)
How to choose a mobile contract deal
The best way to choose a contract is by comparing all your options. Use our handy mobile contract comparison tool on this page - it's packed with hundreds of deals on dozens of phones across loads of networks.
Start by picking the mobile phone you want from the list - or pick a bunch of phones, if you're undecided or just want to see how their deals compare.
Adjust any other filters too, so the tool only shows deals that are relevant to you. You can filter by things like:
- Data, text, and calls allowances
- Upfront and monthly costs
- Your favourite networks
- 4G-only deals
And loads more.
We'll show you all the deals that fit your criteria. Have a scroll through and take a look at your options - then simply select a deal you like the look of, and we'll take you to the right place to sign up.
Need a bit more guidance? Keep reading.
What handset should I get?
There are loads and loads of phones available, from manufacturers as far-ranging as Apple, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, OnePlus, Samsung, Sony, and more. Whether you want the latest iPhone, a fancy Samsung Galaxy, or something cheap and cheerful, you've got options.
When you're picking a new mobile, remember to think about:
- Price - The newer and cleverer the phone, the higher your bills will be - but it's worth it if you want something good.
- Platform - iOS? Android? Windows Phone?
- Design - Pick a size and look that suits you, whether that's a big 'phablet' with a high res screen, something compact, or just a phone that looks great.
- Features - Some smartphones have amazing cameras; some have secure fingerprint scanners; some have excellent speakers. Take a look at our mobile guides if you want some assistance here.
- Storage - Make sure your new phone will have enough space for your apps and files - and check if it's got an SD card slot too so you can expand it.
- Colour - Black? Silver? Rose gold? Lime green? Take your pick.
What allowance do I need?
Most handsets are available on contracts with a huge variety of allowances to pick from, ranging all the way up to unlimited usage. The ideal allowance all depends on how much you use your phone.
- Light users - will get by with 1GB data or less, along with a few minutes and texts. You'll save money with a smaller plan, too.
- Medium users - 2GB-5GB data is usually plenty for anyone who uses apps and social media on the go a lot, or anyone who's constantly glued to their email.
- Heavy users - look for allowances of 10GB above. Perfect if you like to stream iPlayer or listen to Spotify while out and about, or if you need to download lots of documents and files.
Remember that if you're upgrading your handset, you may end up using it more - or it may download files and load pages quicker than your old one, which ends up eating more data. It can't hurt to go for a slightly higher allowance than you're used to.
For more in-depth info, see our guide: How much data do I need?
As for minutes and texts, keep in mind that 1000 a month translates to around 33 a day, and work out how much you need based on that. Luckily a lot of plans these days come with unlimited texts and calls - or at least several thousand so you're unlikely to run out.
Can I get a mobile contract with unlimited data?
Yes, you can get unlimited data contracts. Not many networks offer them, but they are indeed available on a number of phones. To find them, filter the above results to just include unlimited data and pick the handsets you like.
Can't find an unlimited data deal you like? Go for a big allowance instead. Contract plans with 20GB data and beyond are commonplace, and most of us struggle to get through that much in a month anyway.
You could also look into mobile broadband deals if you use the internet on the go a lot.
What's the best mobile network?
Different networks offer different things - so the best one for you really depends on what you're after.
The most important thing of all, of course, is coverage. Always check you can get decent signal from your chosen network before you sign up. Read all about how to do this, and find out how each network measures up, in our guide to mobile coverage.
Meanwhile, Three has unlimited data deals on offer; O2 comes with perks like O2 Priority; BT Mobile comes with big discounts for current BT broadband customers; and other networks have their own bonuses too.
Check out our guide to mobile networks if you need a hand choosing.
Switching mobile network
If the best contract deal comes from a different network from your current one, don't worry - it's easy to switch.
Just use this page to find a deal on a new phone, and sign up. Then, when your order is confirmed, contact your old network to cancel your current plan, and ask for a PAC (porting authorisation code) to give to your new one. This means you can keep the same phone number.
See our guide to switching networks for the full instructions.
What's the cheapest mobile contract?
To find the cheapest contract deal for you, we recommend entering all your important criteria, then sorting the results by cost so the lowest-priced plans are at the top.
However, there are a few things you can try to help you grab a cheap mobile phone deal. They include:
- Older handsets - The old iPhone 6 is a lot cheaper than the current one, for instance.
- Mid-range handsets - Not everyone needs all the bells and whistles of a top-shelf flagship phone. Mid-range models are cheaper, and in many cases still excellent.
- Budget networks - Some networks' plans are much cheaper than others, though you get more bonuses and benefits with the costlier ones which can make the extra cost worth it.
- Lower allowances - The lower the monthly allowance on your plan, the less it will cost - but always make sure you still have enough to cover your use.
- Resellers - We show deals from resellers as well as networks. These are companies that buy phones in bulk, and sell them on plans to you at a low price. Buying through a reseller can be much cheaper than going direct to a network.
- Refurbished phones - Refurbished or reconditioned phones have been traded in and given a thorough spring clean so they’re good as new, but cost less. Read more about them here.
- Existing customer deals - Some networks have special offers for anyone who already uses their services - often including broadband and TV services in the case of EE, Sky, and BT.