What’s the cheapest way to get an iPhone 4S legitimately in the UK? That’s the conundrum that’s been confronting me for the past few days.

I’ve been on a £30/month contract with O2 for my old iPhone 3G, but I’m sure I can do better. I’m a medium data user (between 0.5 and 1Gb/month) and make relatively few calls and send few SMS. I travel a lot, so even the cheaper package roaming prices for data offered by some networks are too costly for me (more on the roaming conundrum here), so I have a MiFi and PAYG SIMs for other European countries for that.

So what did I discover? This is the table calculating a price for a 32Gb iPhone over 24 months, with various data and call packages with the main networks. Data for this was compiled 7-9 October 2012 – it’s accurate as far as I can tell. Click the table to enlarge.

The cheapest option – by a full £76 over two years – is to buy an unlocked iPhone 4S from Apple directly, for £599, and put a GiffGaff PAYG SIM in it, and top-up £10/month for unlimited data (although no tethering according to their T&Cs). I’ve survived without tethering for two years in the UK, no big deal, so I don’t think that’s going to stop me…

Now of course GiffGaff could change their prices and my calculations wouldn’t stand. But I would be the owner of an unlocked iPhone and could go elsewhere if I need to (O2 and 3 both offer 500mb for £10/month), and would still be better off financially than I would on a contract. For £15/month I can get an unlimited data SIM from 3, which together with the unlocked iPhone would still be cheaper than 3’s unlimited data option on a contract.

Now all of this strikes me as a rather perverse outcome, and not one I had expected. Your thoughts and comments are most welcome!


  1. Robert

    I agree with you Clegg, when you have to pay £1000+ for a contract phone, insurance is good idea, but the website you mention is hardly comprehensive. I am surprised they don’t include phoneguard.co.uk. No affiliate here, and I am not posting link:) but I am with them. Can’t say I ever claimed, so don’t know about that, however they offer decent price insurance and exchange for NEW, unlike some others…

  2. Interesting article. I suppose it depends whether you want to pay high costs upfront for an iPhone (which would probably work out cheaper in the long run) or spread the cost over a longer term, by including some pay back with your monthly payments – I prefer the second option myself. I’m planning to upgrade to the iPhone 4s soon but will haggle hard with my current provider. I find that if you threaten to leave them they can usually offer you a good deal to tempt you to stay. One thing you’ve not mentioned is the additional cost of insurance which can add to overall costs. To keep costs down I would use an insurance comparison site like http://www.insuranceforiphone4s.co.uk to try save you a bit of money. As your comparison shows an iPhone is expensive and it’s wise to protect it, even though that can add some further additional cost.

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