The long-awaited iPhone 4S went on sale in the UK in October. While many were expecting a whole-new iPhone 5, the 4S model did not disappoint. It has a new dual-core 1GHz A5 processor, a vastly improved camera and the Siri personal assistant.
If you’ve decided you can’t put it off any longer, the iPhone 4S is a great handset to buy. Unfortunately, making the decision to get one is the easy part – picking the best tariff is much harder. Things are complicated by the sheer number of different combinations of texts, minutes and data spread across the main mobile networks.
To make matters worse you don’t even need to buy the iPhone 4S on a contract deal – you can also buy SIM-free network unlocked handsets which you can then use on PAYG tariffs. At present there are over 400 different tariff combinations for new iPhone users to consider. With this in mind, how can you possibly decide which is the cheapest iPhone 4S deal for you?
Total cost of ownership
The best way to compare prices across networks and between contracts and PAYG is by calculating the Total cost of ownership. This is simply the overall amount you’ll have to pay for your new iPhone 4S and can be found by adding the initial cost of the handset to the monthly price of the plan multiplied by the length of the contract (in months). Or, if you speak maths:
Total cost of ownership = costhandset + costmonthly tariff × tcontract length
As the SIM-free option involves a large upfront payment followed by a far cheaper PAYG tariff while contracts usually have subsidised (or even free) handsets with pricier charges over the following months, this is the best way to compare the available options.
For example, imagine you want to buy a 16GB iPhone 4S with a plan that includes at least 250 minutes. You’re looking at T-Mobile, 3 and Giffgaff as your main options. The cheapest deals available from each are as follows:
T-Mobile – £170 upfront then £30.64/month for 300 minutes, 300 texts and 500MB data.
Three – £129 upfront then £30/month for 300 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB data.
giffgaff – £499 upfront then £10/month for 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data.
If we compare these from a total cost of ownership point of view, it’s immediately obvious which choice is best.
The T-Mobile plan costs £170 for the phone but then £30.64/month for a 24 month contract adds up to another £735. The total you have to pay over two years is about £905.
The tariff on 3 is a bit better as it’s cheaper to start with and you only pay £720 over the 24 month contract making a total of £849.
However, Giffgaff is easily the cheapest in this example because, although you have to pay £499 to buy the iPhone 4S 16GB, the £10 goodybag only costs you a paltry £240 over two years. Even though you have to shell out more to start with, you save over £100 compared to the 3 deal. The total is just £739 and you’re not locked into any long contract and you even get more texts and data.
iPhone 4S 16GB price comparison
In this comparison we’ve looked at all the deals available for the iPhone 4S 16GB version from the major UK networks (O2, 3, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone) as well as the cheapest PAYG alternative from Giffgaff using their incredible value goodybags. We’ve also broken it down into separate sections for inclusive minutes, texts and data so you can see which deal is best for you. Don’t forget to also keep in mind the coverage in your area for the network you want to go with – our network coverage maps will let you know how good the signal strength is.
Best iPhone 4S 16GB deal by minutes
At least 200 minutes
If you only need as little as 200 minutes a month, Giffgaff is the obvious winner being much much cheaper than the alternatives with a total cost of ownership of just £739 over two years.
You just need to order your £499 iPhone 4S 16GB then request a Giffgaff micro-SIM with £5 free credit. Next, log in to your account and buy the £10/month goodybag. This gives you 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data every month.
At least 300 minutes
If however you need 300 minutes a month, 3‘s offering is slightly better than Giffgaff’s with a saving of £10. The total is only £849 for a 24 month contract.
At least 400 minutes
For 400 minutes a month, Giffgaff charges back into the lead with a price of only £859 in total.
Again, you have to buy your £499 iPhone 4S 16GB then order a Giffgaff micro-SIM with £5 free credit. Next, simply get the £15/month goodybag for 400 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data every month.
At least 500 minutes
3 has the best offer for a 500 minute contract with a total cost of ownership of £889.
At least 600 minutes
Finally, if you’re more talkative and you want to have 600 minutes every month, O2 is the best choice for you with a total cost over 24 months of £916.
Best iPhone 4S 16GB deal by texts
No matter whether you need only 100 texts, a massive 5000 texts or any number in between, the graph clearly shows that Giffgaff is your best bet each time with a total cost of ownership of just £739 over two years.
First just buy your 16GB iPhone 4S for an initial cost of £499 then order a free Giffgaff micro-SIM with £5 free credit. You can then get the £10/month goodybag that will give you 250 any-network minutes every month as well as unlimited texts and unlimited data.
An alternative for 100-500 texts
For 500 texts a month or less, O2 also offer some very competitive deals. For example, if you want a 500 text allowance you can get an iPhone 4S 16GB for a total cost of ownership of just £744.
Best iPhone 4S 16GB deal by data
Again, no matter how much mobile internet you use, Giffgaff are clearly the cheapest deal for an iPhone 4S 16GB at only £739 for 24 months which works out to total cost of only about £30/month including buying the phone.
Simply order your £499 iPhone 4S 16GB then request a Giffgaff micro-SIM with £5 free credit. Once it’s activated you just need to buy the £10/month goodybag that will give you unlimited data every month. You also get 250 minutes every month and unlimited texts.
An alternative for 100MB data
If you only need as little as 100MB data, O2 also have a decent offer with an iPhone 4S for a total cost of only £744.
Giffgaff have shown that they are very often the cheapest option for buying the newest iPhone with some massive savings compared to other networks when you look at total cost of ownership.
3’s iPhone 4S deals are incredibly good value all-round especially as they have easily the best 3G network in the country and their allowances are pretty darn generous. Check out their UK coverage maps to see for yourself.
Perhaps the surprise of the pack is O2‘s cheap iPhone 4S packages. Because they allow you to pay a very low monthly charge for only 100MB of data, it’s possible to get lots of minutes or lots of texts for very cheap. In many instances, they arguably gave Giffgaff’s offers a run for their money. Perhaps this more aggressive pricing is a new tactic for the troubled network? Do make sure you check their coverage in your area before buying though.
So there you have it. A whole bunch of fantastic iPhone 4S deals no matter how much allowance you need for minutes, texts or mobile internet. Stay tuned for our next instalment where we look at deals for the iPhone 4S 32GB version.