Best UK prepaid mobile service?
August 10, 2008 10:01 PM   Subscribe

My family is going to be in the UK for a month. What's the best prepaid mobile phone deal (we're bringing our own phones)? 3 is out as my wife's phone is not 3G, otherwise which is the best value?
posted by singingfish to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Make sure that your phones are unlocked. I used O2 pay-as-you go and it was fine. I doubt you'll be able to get a data plan on a pay-as-you go account.
posted by k8t at 10:08 PM on August 10, 2008

Oh, and make sure that they're GSM.
posted by k8t at 10:09 PM on August 10, 2008

Honestly, it changes all the time. Best thing to do is to go to the Carphone Warehouse, and get their latest catalog. They used to have a summary of all the available tariffs on all networks on a couple of pages near the end.
posted by grouse at 10:28 PM on August 10, 2008

There's not going to be very much in it for only a month of usage. I use O2 pay-as-you-go and it's good for me. The only feature it has that might be useful to you is that you can pre-buy minutes and texts in bulk for cheaper than you'd otherwise pay; if you know you're going to call a lot it might be worth doing that.

SIM cards should be free or very nearly so, don't let anyone charge you more than £1 or so. It's the topups that cost money.
posted by katrielalex at 11:05 PM on August 10, 2008

Links to the two largest mobile phone sellers in the UK.



posted by selton at 11:22 PM on August 10, 2008

nth'ing the unlocked phone. You can even buy a SIM card from a vending machine at Heathrow airport.
posted by randomination at 1:27 AM on August 11, 2008

Orange and Vodafone have the best coverage, and the best deals. I never consider any of the others.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:15 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was pretty happy with T-Mobile. I was only there for a week and always had coverage in London and Reading. The guys I was working with (local Reading guys) thought I was crazy and Orange was the best or something, but I didn't notice.

I bought the SIM and discounted coupon codes off eBay. I was able to make sure it worked from the US before I left. I used an unlocked iPhone. No 3G on the phone, T-Mobile didn't have edge, so I was only using gprs but it really wasn't so bad for email or Google maps. The walk n web seemed a good deal and I didn't think I was getting ripped off for minutes.
posted by thilmony at 5:23 AM on August 11, 2008

O2 are fine for coverage and also offer a prepay plan that includes cheaper international calls which might work out useful if the family wants to call home conveniently. My experience of Vodafone customer service has been nothing but awful so I refuse them money on principal.

If you go for a provider that doesn't give cheap international calls there are services to get cheap international calls without having to be stuck trying to choose a phone card and dial a 30 digit number to get access like Just Dial.
posted by merocet at 5:26 AM on August 11, 2008

Tesco Mobile. is very cheap. Don't know if the superstores sell SIM cards though.
posted by seanyboy at 5:32 AM on August 11, 2008

Second Tesco (even though I've just left them). The PAYG that I had let you choose 5 numbers that you got half price calls and texts to. 10p/min phone and 5p/text to five numbers means up to 6 family members communicating for sod all.

If your phones aren't unlocked and set up for the UK, I'd recommend the little Motorola F3. It's about £10 from Tesco, has an eInk screen and does nothing other than make phone calls and write grammar free text messages. If you don't like it, hey, it's £10 down the crapper. It's like a cell phone from the days before cell phones but it weighs nothing. I get nearly as much geek joy from that as I do my brand new HTC Diamond.

Oh, and Tesco piggybacks on O2 so it's got decent coverage and the phones automatically activate when they go through the till.

[YAY! an askMe that I know something about!]
posted by twine42 at 7:55 AM on August 11, 2008

Seconding Carphone warehouse, where you can see all the different plans - and they don't care which one you buy, so no pressure or heavy sales tactics (our salesman helped us find the cheapest plan for our pathetic 2-3 min/day calling to the same 2 numbers). Our T-mobile phones were cheaper from Carphone Warehouse than from the actual T-mobile store.

If you will mostly be calling each other, you might want to look at companies that offer good "in-network" rates - our T-mobile prepaid was 5p/min (pro-rated to portions of minutes) to a T-mobile phone, while being pretty hefty to any other line. But that didn't matter, as our housemate had T-mobile, and we could text everyone else quite cheaply.

Don't know if you have been in Britain much, but there (like many places outside of North America), texting is relatively cheap, and you don't have to pay when someone else phones you. (Which is just horrible here in the States - I pay for wrong numbers and telemarkets, most of whom are machines.)
posted by jb at 8:19 AM on August 11, 2008

posted by Zambrano at 10:42 AM on August 11, 2008

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