Grab a mobile plan with unlimited data
If you like to stream music, listen to podcasts, and watch lots of video while on the go, you're probably using up a lot of mobile data - and it can get expensive if you keep going over your monthly allowance.
Instead, why not switch to a plan with unlimited data - or at least a generous allowance? Whether you want 4G or 3G, a contract on a handset or just SIM-only, there are plenty of mobile tariffs that give you a lot of mobile broadband to use. You'll never have bill shock again.
Which networks offer unlimited data?
Unlimited data is unfortunately a rarity in mobile plans, only offered by a couple of UK networks - don't worry though, as many others have some pretty hefty data allowances. But first, here are the good guys who do have unlimited data plans.
Three is the only mobile network in the UK to offer genuinely unlimited data, known as 'All-you-can-eat'. In fact, you can get plans with All-you-can-eat everything - data, minutes, and texts - and you'll find All-you-can-eat data available on phone contracts, SIM-only, and 30-day SIM plans.
The other network to offer unlimited data is giffgaff, in the form of its 'Always on' plans. These indeed have no download limit for 4G, but use isn't truly unlimited - once you've used 6GB in a month, the rest of your usage is subject to extreme speed throttling for most of the day. Nonetheless, it still means unlimited downloads.
Mobile phone plans with unlimited data
Nearly every phone on the market is available on a plan with a large data allowance, if not completely unlimited data. Plus, some networks reserve their highest data tariffs just for contracts on handsets.
A heavy data plan is ideal for the latest iPhone. The crisp HD display and powerful A10 chip were practically made for watching Netflix, and you'll need data for streaming music to your AirPods and uploading those 7MP selfies to Instagram.
Both the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus come in a range of colours including a gorgeous glossy black, and, believe it or not, they're water-resistant too.
Last year's iPhone is just a fab as ever. Grab an iPhone 6s or a 6s Plus and you'll get a 12MP camera, high definition 3D Touch display, and up to 128GB of internal storage. And though it may be lacking a cool black case, it does have a headphone jack.
Samsung Galaxy S7
The latest Galaxy flagship is Samsung's fastest, most powerful smartphone yet, thanks to its quad-core processor and TouchWiz software. The 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen is fantastic resolution, the cameras pack some impressive tech, and even the battery is super-powered. Needless to say, a decent data plan will really help you get the most out of the S7.
Which networks are best for data?
If it's unlimited 4G data you want, Three is your best bet. In fact, it's kind of your only bet.
Luckily, the network's All-you-can-eat plan is excellent, and data really is unlimited. There's a fair usage cap of 1,000GB per month, but to reach that you'd need to be downloading 24/7.
Giffgaff offers 'Always on' data, which gives you unlimited downloads, but speeds are capped. The first 6GB you use each month will be at the network's full 4G speed. But after that, any data you use between 8am and midnight will come at a severely reduced speed of 256Kb.
We'd recommend this plan if you use about 5-6GB of mobile data each month and want the peace of mind that you won't get charged extortionate out-of-plan charges if you go over. If you use more data than that, however… we'd say you're better off on a plan with a large fixed data allowance.
Then again, if you always work the nightshift and like to watch iPlayer into the wee hours, Always-on data could be perfect.
Not only does EE offer phone plans with monthly data allowances up to a whopping 40GB, it gives you the fastest 4G available in the UK. We're talking speeds up to an incredible 90Mb and beyond on a 4GEE Max plan. As well as that, it's got the best 4G coverage in the country, so you'll be able to go online almost anywhere you go.
So although it may not have the highest data allowances on the market (though 40GB per month isn't exactly lacking), EE probably has the best mobile broadband.
Vodafone Red plans go up to a nice big 30GB, plus you get 4GB inclusive roaming data with each plan - that's more than enough for posting poolside pics to Facebook.
However, Vodafone also gives you completely unlimited usage for the first month of your plan. That way, you can find out how much data you actually use in a standard month, and change your plan to reflect that if you need to.
On O2, you can get phone contract plans with up to 20GB monthly allowance, or SIM-only ones up to 16GB. Unlimited texts come as standard, and the high-end plans come with unlimited minutes too.
The great thing about O2 is all the extras you get - like O2 Priority, which gives you cheap or early bird tickets to events and concerts.
BT Mobile offers data allowances of up to 15GB on its plans, along with unlimited minutes and texts. And existing BT broadband customers get an extra £5 off per month - sweet!
The cool thing about a BT Mobile plan, however, is that it gives you free access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots. Since there are more than 5 million of those babies nationwide, you probably won't need as much mobile data anyway - there will almost always be Wi-Fi to connect to when you're in a town or city.
Virgin Mobile's plans go up to 20GB, a tariff which also has unlimited texts and 5000 minutes. It's great value, especially for Virgin Media customers.
Even better, you can carry unused data over to the next month. So if you're under your limit, you'll have a bit more next month.
Another good feature - Virgin's mobile plans let you use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as much as you want - the data used won't be deducted from your monthly allowance. That's great if you live on those services, as the data you save can really mount up.
Do I need unlimited mobile data?
Unlimited data is a wonderful luxury. It means you can stream music when you're out for a walk, or watch Netflix on the train, or post photos to social media, without having to ever worry about eating up your allowance - but not everyone needs it. If you don't use a massive amount of data, you could be better off on a slightly cheaper plan that has a data limit.
It's tempting to go for unlimited data just to be on the safe side, but remember that your monthly allowance isn't the only important thing in a mobile plan. Some networks have fantastic coverage in your area; others have superfast 4G speeds; some are better value; and others come with special extras and perks.
Before choosing a plan, we recommend working out how much data you use each month and picking a deal that reflects that. You can find out your usage by installing a usage tracking app, or by checking in regularly on your current network's online portal or app.
You never know, you may find that you can save a fair bit of money by going for a not-quite-so-unlimited deal.
How much is 1GB of data?
1GB of data will, roughly, let you do the following activities…
- Watch TV in standard definition for two hours
- Watch TV or films in HD for one hour
- Play games online for 40 minutes
- Post 500 photos to social media
- Make video calls for 3-5 hours
- Download 150 songs
- Send and receive 10,000 emails (not including attachments or rich media)
- Browse the web and social media for 40 hours
- Send 1 million messages on messaging apps (like WhatsApp)