Ok so seeing some mobile phone ads has made me want to write this guide, in this article we will be looking at getting the best out of your phone deals and ensuring that you never pay for stuff you don't need. Recently phone companies are advertising things in their packages which are misleading and quite frankly i don't know how they get away with it. This guide ensures you'll know how to avoid being scammed into paying through the nose for things you don't need or perhaps aren't to bothered about in the first place.

OK first things first lets look at the technical side and what each thing means:

Cell Data: When your phone connects to the internet through your phone companies satalites (3G, 4G etc) you phone transmits data to and from those satalites letting you browse the net and perform tasks that require an internet connection. This data is what your companies charge you for.

Data usage allowance: This is the limitation phone companies have in order to create tarrifs to suit your needs, usually packages come in increments of 100MB, Be aware that when companies sell you "unlimited" data, it is not acually unlimited, if you exceed 1GB (1024MB) then you allowance of unlimited will run out, however some companies cap this at higher rates (in which case you'll have to ask your provider what the unlimited cap is) The reason it is called unlimited is because phone companies have set it at a limit where not many people will actually exceed (however you can easily exceed this downloading lots of big apps and movies continuously). We will look at this more in depth a little later.

Wi-Fi: Wifi is where your phone connects to an access point (or router) which then connects to the internet, Wi-Fi generally is available if you use broadband in your household and own a wireless router, however out and about there are some places like Mc Donalds that offer free wifi when you go into their resteraunts. Wi-Fi usage does NOT count towards the overall Data allowance set by phone companies! do not get this confused with Cell data.

Wi-fi Hotspot: when your out and about there are many shops and eat out places that offer wifi hotspots, basically like Wifi they have wireless routers which you can connect to and will either have to sign up for a free account to use the internet, or you may have to pay to use that hotspot, generally companies tend to opt to give out free wifi but you should always ask or double check by using your phones web browser once connected to a hotspot to see if its free or not (usually there will be a log-in screen or home page that tells you if the wifi is free or not) Alternatively ask a member of staff of the wi-fi hotspots provider.

Ok so we've covered the technical side of things so what now? well lets look at how phone companies mislead customers by pretending to give away more than they actually do, these ploys are very well hidden and can be confusing for those who aren't savvy with phones or computers.

Ok lets take Vodaphone for example, they are offering you Free Blackberry messenger, free wifi and 100 minutes when you spend £10 a month on a contract which gets you a blackberry. That sounds like a pretty good deal, theres a lot of "free stuff" they have advertised
but lets take a close look into their "excellent" deal.

Firstly and foremostly Free wifi.....wifi is alway free and phone companies CANNOT charge you for this unless you are using their wifi hotspots (so don't worry if you wish to connect to your home routers as they will not be able to charge you) this is the biggest con around as they are technically able to say they are offering free wifi because they are indeed giving you free wifi access to their routers, but wifi is free most places and your not limited to using just their hotspots.

They are advertising free blackberry messenger.....again blackberry messenger is an app that lets you chat to your friends who also use blackberry messenger for FREE! the phone companies do not own this app and again cannot charge you for using it unless you are connected to either a pay to use wifi hotspot or you are using your Cell data. do not get lead to believe they are giving you this for free as its always been free no matter what phone provider you go with. another misleading perception they can get away with.

So all in all your paying £10 a month for 100 free minuites....thats not a lot considering £10 gets you much more on other phone companies tariffs.

Ok lets look at another offender.....o2 Their claiming their sim cards gets better with time and initially you start with say 100 minuites 50MB of data and 100 free texts, then after so many months everything is doubled for the same £10. Ok firstly that seems like a good deal to people who know little about phones but we are not fooled, 50MB of cell data is enough to perhaps surf the web for a few days and maybe download 1 or 2 apps but that will easily be used up if you use Cell data when on the go, 100 minutes isn't too bad and 100 text again isn't too bad, then we get to everything gets doubled....again 100MB of data will not be much if you plan on using your cell data on the go if you want to watch youtube videos, download apps and other things and you can get a far better deal using one of o2's other tariffs, your lead to believe your getting more for your money because everything doubles but infact you getting below what the other tariffs offer for the same amount of money.

Data Allowance re-visited

There are many ways your phone can connect to the internet which uses data, from the very slow WAP to the very new and fast Edge and 4G however when you own a phone that has these options, there is always an option to turn it off, preventing you from connecting to the internet needlessly and to stop you using your data, one good way to save money and battery life is to turn off data when your using Wifi and turn off wifi when using data. if both are used at the same time you'll still eat up your data allowance first as your phone will always use Cell data where possible. To find your phones Cell Data transfer button/option it will normally be found in your phones settings either under an internet/data setting or on its own.

Heres a rough guide as to how much data you may be using when performing the following:

Service Usage Average data size
TV Watching a 30 min episode of a series 90MB
You Tube Music Video – 4 mins 11MB
Radio App 10 mins 15MB
Facebook 15mins with no video streaming 5MB
Email 100 emails sent/received with no attachment 2.5MB
Email with photo or doc attachment 10 emails sent/received containing attachment 18MB
Web Browsing 100 web pages 20MB
Web Browsing 1 hour 26MB
Google Maps 10mins 6MB

So how do you get the best deal for you?

Firstly ask yourself the following question What do i use/will use the most when i have a phone/new phone?

Do you text more than you call people? or do you solely communicate through free apps and use cell data a lot for 3G and 4G? (bare in mind the only time you need to use Cell data is when no wifi hotspots are available.)

next thing you want to ask yourself is how much do i use of the thing i use the most, do you text 100 text a month on average or 1000? do you ring people for hours on end or just a quick call to tell them your where you'd meet them?

When you've decided on a rough estimate of what you will be using then look at the tariff available on as many phone companies as possible and don't be afriad to bargain with phone companies as they want your customer, and they'd rather have some money in their pockets rather than their rivals getting it. If you see a better deal on another tarrif of a different company phone up the other company you want to go with and tell them about the deal, a lot of the time they will match that deal or even beat it.

If your on contract (pay monthly) make sure you aren't paying over the odds for things, why are you on contract? and would it be cheaper to switch to pay as you go. These days a lot of pay and go customers recieve a lot of benefits which sometimes work out cheaper than payuing monthly. If your going to go on contract ask yourself the reason for doing so and would you get anywhere near the limitations your paying for?

Most people go on contract to get themselves the latest phones or just to upgrade their phones but a lot of phone companies oversell contracts to get more money from you when you could of bought the phone and went on pay and go for less.

As an example you might get offered a blackberry curve for £20 a month for 18 months with 100 minutes and 100MB of data with 200 free texts
all in all you end up only using 150 texts, 80 minuites and 100MB of data each month.

Your total payment for that contract would be £360 given that you aren't using the full allowance your missing out on 50 texts a month which equates to £6 wasted a month and around £5 in phonecalls which means you'd be overspending £11 a month alone.

Now if you were to go on Pay and go you could buy the blackberry curve outright for say £80 and then spend £15 on a tariff that gives you 100 free texts and 50mins and 100MB of data. with this you'd be spending around £270 for 18 months on topping up and £80 on the phone making you £350 in total costs, saving you £10 already, not only that with pay and go you keep any credit that you do not use so in actual fact you may only need to top up every 2-3 months giving you a bigger saving.

As you can see it is not always beneficial to bind yourself into contracts for the latest phones unless you are willing to pay more to get the latest gadget first. (example above is not a new phone but companies will try to sell you old phones as upgrades to make the most of their money grabbing idea's). Another example is with the newest phones you could be paying up to £50 for a new iphone5 for 18-24 months, given the longer period you'd end up paying £1200 for a phone that costs £599, while you may argue that your getting free texts and things included, are you really getting a good deal? with Pay and go your not bound by contracts and you can choose when to top up or not, this often saves you money.

To re-cap

When looking at your tariff ensure that you've asked yourself the questions of what will you be using and how much roughly? then choose a tariff that offers that and don't forget to bargain! find pay and go alternatives if possible and ensure you get the most out of your freebies!

Remember that contact phones aren't always cheaper and you WILL get charged for going over the limits, whereas on pay and go your credit will cover any allowances you go over.

The golden rule, Do a bit of research and don't be afraid to revert to this guide to check the jargon, don't be fooled into thinking your getting a good deal because you are offered free wifi and free black berry messenger services (or any other app services for that matter) as these are free apps and you cannot be charged for using them, you can only be charged using certain hotspots and Cell data if you have no free allowance left and your using these apps as they require the internet to work.

For convenience we've added a list of good free messenger apps that you may come into contact with in TV adds claiming you can get them free in tariffs when they are free anyway:

Blackberry messenger
Facebook Messenger
MSN Messenger
Live Messenger
KiK Messenger
eBuddy Messenger
eBuddy XMS

we hope you found this guide useful and if you have any questions feel free to ask and i'll help you the best i can, but the best thing to do is do a bit of research before choosing the best tariffs for you!