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Which iPhone 4S deal is the best?

UK iPhone 4GS deals are all pretty competitive

The new iPhone will likely be Apple’s best-selling model yet, not least because all the operators are offering an iPhone 4S deal.

In contrast, the early days of the iPhone saw only one UK operator touting the phone, which at least kept life simple!

So which is the best iPhone 4S deal?

I don’t plan on replacing my 3GS model – it seems like only yesterday I justified buying an iPhone, and it’s been brilliant for basic email and web access on the move. The camera is terrible, but that can wait.

However my friend A. is mad for the new iPhone 4S. He’s a tech developers’ dream. He says he’s bored to tears with his current iPhone. He likes learning all the fresh capabilities of new hardware (that I resent having to think about) and he likes his web browser to load 0.013 seconds faster.

The good news is he’s a deal hound, and he’s compared all the two-year iPhone 4S deals out there. And as he’s also a Monevator reader, he’s agreed to share his data with you!

Here are his best deals, for the 16GB followed by the 32GB model.

  • All deals are for 24 months, which cuts costs compared to the 18 month deals and hopefully keeps you in sequence with Apple’s product release cycle.
  • All costs are on a monthly basis. For the handset cost, the initial purchase price has therefore been divided by 24. This is the most effective way of seeing which deal is the best.

iPhone 4S deals: 16GB

O2 Orange Vodafone T-Mobile 3
Model 16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB
Mins 100 100 100 100 500
Texts 500 Unlimited 500 Unlimited 5,000
Data 1GB 1GB 250+500MB* 3GB 1GB
Plan £15.50 £31.00 £26.00 £25.54 £35.00
Data £10.00  Inc. £5.00 £5.10  Inc.
Handset £12.50 £7.08 £14.96 £10.00 £2.04
Monthly £38.00 £38.08 £45.96 £40.64 £37.04
Shop O2 Orange Vodafone T-Mobile 3

*Vodafone 500MB bolt-on is an unadvertised option that A. had confirmed over the phone.

iPhone 4S deals: 32GB

O2 Orange Vodafone T-Mobile 3
Model 32GB 32GB 32GB 32GB 32GB
Mins 100 100 100 100 500
Texts 500 Unlimited 500 Unlimited 5,000
Data 1GB 1GB 250+500MB 3GB 1GB
Plan £15.50 £31.00 £26.00 £25.54 £35.00
Data £10.00 Inc. £5.00 £5.10 Inc.
Handset £16.67 £11.25 £18.29 £15.83 £5.79
Monthly £42.17 £42.25 £49.29 £46.47 £40.79
Shop O2 Orange Vodafone T-Mobile 3

*Vodafone 500MB bolt-on is an unadvertised option that A. had confirmed over the phone.


The difference between the cheapest and most expensive 16GB iPhone 4S deal is £214 over the two years.

That’s a fair bit of money to save towards your iPhone 5G!

For the 32GB deals, the difference is £204.

Those outliers aside, I am surprised by how superficially similar all the iPhone 4S deals are once you break the costs down on a monthly basis. I suppose that is a gold star for increased competition (and a black mark against holding shares in mobile operators for the long term).

Many people won’t do too badly choosing on the basis of their preferred or existing operator. Some people may be swayed by unlimited texts or extra data.

My friend A. isn’t a fan of the cheapest option, 3, so it’ll likely be O2 for him.

If you’ve already got an iPhone or a relationship with one of these companies, then it may be worth trying to wangle a deal by calling them. Apple is pretty inflexible with its carriers, though, so I don’t know how much room for negotiation they’d have.

Negotiated a great iPhone 4S deal? Let us know below!

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{ 21 comments… add one }
  • 1 robinh October 13, 2011, 10:45 am

    Best deal is to buy the phone from Apple and get a GiffGaff £10 sim

    £499.99 + £10 per month for 24 months = £739.99 total or £30.83 per month – 21% cheaper than a contract and you’re not locked in.

    GiffGaff £10 gives you 250 mins per month plus unlimited text and data and it’s the O2 network

  • 2 The Investor October 13, 2011, 10:55 am

    @Robinh — Cool spot, thanks for sharing! Is there a downside?

  • 3 scott October 13, 2011, 11:47 am

    Have a look at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com, they’ve just done a full 4S comparison exercise and Tesco mobile came out way in front of the rest, and you only need to sign up for a year.

  • 4 Vanezza October 13, 2011, 12:21 pm

    Wow! Here in Canada, I have the same plan as Orange but I pay 73$ (about £46)!

  • 5 The Investor October 13, 2011, 12:34 pm

    Cheers Scott, I just had a look at the Tesco site and they’re not shouting about the 4S yet but they are indeed offering it.

    Here’s the link for the Tesco iPhone 4S page.

  • 6 robinh October 13, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Only downside to GiffGaff is that you dont get visual voicemail – but only O2 offer that anyway and you effectively it’s payg so you have to remember to buy more credit. You’re on the O2 network same as Tesco. Not a big price to pay.

    I’ve been with Tesco previously but their new 4S deal still works out at £38.90 per month over the 24 months or a total of £635 over 12 months vs £619 for Apple + GiffGaff – GiffGaff for me – save money and sell the phone when the next comes out with no limitations

  • 7 The Investor October 13, 2011, 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the further information RobinH.

    I really like Visual Voicemail (I am on O2) and would pay some premium for it, though I agree perhaps not several hundred pounds!

  • 8 Joe October 13, 2011, 3:09 pm

    Buying the handset upfront and sorting out your own sim is the way to go . Couple of extra money saving hints

    1) topcashback are offering 3.03% off the iphone from the apple store

    2) simplemobile (using vodafone) are offering a SIM card deal for £8 per month 300mins 1000 texts 500mb. Add in another £30 topcashback as well for this 6 month contract

    so its another £93 off RobinH’s already excellent price

    The cashback cannot be guaranteed as you are relying on third party to track your cookies etc – so it shouldnt make or break your finances – but its nice to have

  • 9 robinh October 13, 2011, 4:36 pm

    Very Interesting Joe. I’d forgotten that I’d got 3% off my iPhone order using Quido.com. Hadnt heard of simplemobile – will check it out.

    Can anyone else save us all MORE money!

  • 10 robinh October 13, 2011, 4:48 pm


    Can you put a link to the simple mobile offer please


  • 11 Joe October 13, 2011, 5:16 pm

    my mistake its the SIMple offer from talkmobile


  • 12 The Investor October 13, 2011, 5:38 pm

    Great stuff guys!

    Maybe we can get it for free by the end of the week. 🙂

  • 13 harry October 14, 2011, 10:34 am

    Some people don’t like redemption deals but i’ve done plenty and NEVER had a problem, Mobiles.co.uk have a deal on the Nokia 2220, £26/month for 200mins/unltd txt/750mb data OR 400mins/unltd txt/250mb data with 23 months free by redemption & £30 quidco. So ditch the phone & use the SIM. The Nokia 2220 is a basic slide phone which would do for a spare, emergency phone or you could sell it.

    Works out as £26 x 24 = £624 – £598 (23x£26) – £30 (quidco) = You get £4 towards the iPhone 4S

  • 14 harry October 14, 2011, 10:39 am

    Nokia 2220 deal is on Orange!

  • 15 Vytautas October 14, 2011, 12:49 pm

    The best deal is not to buy new iPhone at all. If your current phone is functioning OK, best deal financially is to stick with it and instead splurging on new gadget (that will be old in 6 months).

  • 16 The Investor October 14, 2011, 1:28 pm

    @Vytautas — That’s my approach. I bought my iPhone 3GS nearly two years ago, and I suspect it will be good for another two. (If iPhones are anything like iPods or Macs, it could be good for another 3-4, provided you don’t want all the bells/whistles). I need to get on a new tarriff though.

    Amortizing a pricey gadget like an iPhone over 4 years instead of 2 is very helpful IMHO.

  • 17 ermine October 14, 2011, 11:25 pm

    Amortizing a pricey gadget like an iPhone over 4 years instead of 2 is very helpful IMHO.

    Am I being particularly thick here or are we not talking £500-ish per year running costs? You don’t amortise that, you just pay it. Fantastic gadget, guys, and each to your own, but don’tcha have to plug it in to have it work?

  • 18 Joe October 16, 2011, 3:33 pm

    The £30 cashback on the talkmobile deal doenst work for me – its failed for me a number of times this weekend with different browsers, different credit cards and even a different PC

  • 19 Adam October 16, 2011, 7:48 pm

    Call me a party popper, but I’m rather confused by this post – not the content per se, but the reasoning for it, which is against much of what this blog is usually about. Buying – or essentially hire-purchasing – a very expensive piece of kit without which everyday life can carry on quite happily does not seem to me like a way of saving money or investing to make more money. It’s the same as buying a brand new car, which loses a chunk of value the moment it leaves the show room. It is, however, a rather good wheeze for the companies involved. I’m off to buy some more mobile phone company (or Tescos, but the sounds of it)! Keep up the good work.

  • 20 Adam October 16, 2011, 7:49 pm

    ooops I meant popper, not popper – sorry!

  • 21 The Investor October 17, 2011, 9:47 pm

    @ermine – There’s a cost of hardware with something like the iPhone that’s loaded towards the front of the bill. I’d imagine in another two years I’ll be able to have my existing iPhone on a £15 call/text/data plan if I fancy it! That’s what I mean by amortizing it; perhaps not 100% correct in accounting parlance I concede, but I think it’s a worthwhile point. 🙂

    @Adam – I think you mean pooper not popper! 🙂 Questions of what somebody should or shouldn’t spend their money on are inevitably going to be answered on a very personal basis. This is why you’ll see one person drinking home brew ale, and another person vigorously debating the best way to import their own fine wine from France in bulk, and both arguing they’re doing so with a frugal mindset. Then there’s the fact that £500 a year for one person is disposable income, and for another it’s the heating bill.

    Given all this variation, in my view, the golden rules are:

    * Spend less then you earn (the golden rule with knobs on!) The only exception here is debt to buy a house or (perhaps) modest debt to fund a business.

    * Save a good chunk of your income (I’d say at least 10%) and invest it prudently.

    If my girlfriend tells me they’re doing that and with the remainder they want to buy shoes for £150 a pop, so be it.

    Don’t get me wrong — sure I’ll argue they’re not worth it, or that your car isn’t, or that my friend’s new vintage film (!) camera isn’t, but we’re debating tactics after that, not a grand philosophy. This isn’t really the blog for cutting spending to the bone *as a rule*, unless that’s what makes you happy in which case — genuinely — I hope it does so. 🙂

    Thanks for your comments, please keep on reading, saving and investing!

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