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Phone Bundling Options

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
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This is the trickiest part about comparing mobile phone offers – trying to make sense of all the bundles.

Airtime Makes Money

Since mobile phones first came on the scene the bit that made the most money for the phone operators was always the airtime, getting regular money from customers calling or texting, rather than the money from the sale of the handset. From the outset the offering, particularly on contracts, were about making up packages by 'bundling' one thing with another.

The idea is to get you to use more of the services, or, better still, pay for the services and then don't use them. For example, if you have a contract that has 200 minutes per month and 100 texts, but you very rarely text, then the company is getting money for something you don’t use.

Bundles Aid Confusion

Frankly bundles are designed to confuse people and make it difficult for consumers to compare one tariff against the next. Let's say you are paying, say, £35 per month for 900 minutes and 1800 texts, with a free phone and half-price line rental for the first 12 months of a 2-year contract. Is that going to cost you more or less than an offer from a different operator where you pay £50 for the phone, the line rental is full price, the monthly rate is £25, you get 1000 minutes and 500 texts, and the contract is only for one year in the bundle?

The answer is that it depends on your usage and how much you want to change to a new phone in a year's time. It could come down to whether you've got the cash to pay for the phone up front, if it means getting a better long term deal.

Analysis is Key to Deciding What You Need

You also have to compare the charges for the texts and minutes outside the included offer. Some networks, for example, will charge 20p per minute for calls to landlines and other mobiles, some half that for landlines and then 50% more for mobiles. You then have to work out how often you phone other mobiles and how often you phone landlines.

The complexity has increased in recent years as new features enable companies to add new elements into the bundles. MMS texts, both still and video, and data charges, as more of us access the internet from our mobiles, have joined text and minutes, and some companies now charge for itemised billing.

Comparison Websites Can Clear the Confusion

Many of the price comparison websites can help with this confusion. The first step is to look back at the last three or four bills to see if you are using all your allocation of minutes, or going consistently over or under the amount. Look to see how many texts you send too, then you'll know what you're looking for in terms of included minutes and texts.

Then go to one of the comparison sites and add in your average monthly minutes and SMS requirements, whether you want to be on a contract or Pay As You Go, what phone you want and how much you want to pay for it. Most sites will have these options as a minimum and many other choices you can enter, and will then go away and check all the providers to come back with the deals that match, or are closest to, the criteria that you entered.

Find One That Suits You

Some of the comparison sites are harder to operate than others, but to some extent one that suits what you're looking for might not work for someone else, who uses their phone in a different way. Try a couple out to see which ones suit you.

Also occasionally they don't come up with deals that you might know exist because you've seen them somewhere else, so persevere with different sites. It's a lot easier than trying to find out all the deals for yourself.

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