Buying a mobile phone is a little like trying to solve some ancient mathematical riddle such as Fermat’s last theorem. There are so many permutations you have to work through in order to find the right ratio of cost and benefit, that it kind of drives you bonkers.
You can see this when you visit MoneySuperMarket.com – as a boast at how much research it can perform for you in the blink of an eye, it states that it compares 631,868 possible mobile phone deals. Even if you manually narrow that down by selecting your preferred device and what features you would like in a tariff (unlimited texts, for example, or 2GB of data a month), you are still left with a dizzying array of potential deals and offers.
But having just gone through this process, I can safely say that the most irritating thing for me was having to upgrade – via a third party – with my existing mobile phone network provider.
I’ve been with T-Mobile for the last two years, which is now part of the EE group. My iPhone 5 has, in the last few months, become almost unusable (battery lasting an hour, turning off randomly etc), so I’d been looking forward to upgrading to a new device. At this point in time, I always search the rest of the market to roughly see what competitors can offer, before seeing what my current provider can do for me.
Imagine my surprise this time round, to find that a third party (Directmobiles.co.uk) could better the upgrade deal EE offered me, if I upgraded with – EE. I was amazed that EE couldn’t offer me a decent deal directly, but could do so via a third party. What's more, Directmobiles.co.uk even offered me a free gift of another phone, a Nokia with £5 of pay as you go credit.
So I asked EE why this was the case, and a spokesperson replied: “It's down to the business model of the companies involved. As we have much higher running costs, we have to keep the actual network up and running as well as our customer service and retail side, we can't afford to take a loss on the handsets as often as third parties.
“Coming directly with us does offer a lot of benefits though, such as easier warranty claims and our own software with WiFi calling, to name just a couple.”
Had I upgraded via EE directly, I would have ended up paying around £300 extra over three years – I don’t believe WiFi calling is worth £300 of my money, not when I’ve got Skype, WhatsApp and other services installed on my phone already.
That said, I was a little wary about upgrading via a firm I’d never heard of. There is a healthy suspicion about third-party retailers, with some online forums containing angry postings about most of them (usually involving delays in phones getting to customers and/or those promised free gifts never arriving).
But Directmobiles.co.uk was linked to by the comparison website mobilephonechecker.co.uk, which is one of only six accredited members of regulator Ofcom’s price comparison scheme, and one of only two that compare mobile phone deals.
So I made the switch with Directmobiles.co.uk, I kept my number, the upgrade went through smoothly with EE and I had my new phone within a couple of days. As for my free Nokia phone? Surprise surprise, that hasn’t arrived yet, but, rest assured, I’m on the case.