How to get cheaper data on your smartphone

Saving money on data bills is easy as long as you think before you buy (Image: Recombu)

If you're thinking of switching to a smartphone this Christmas, there's a potential 'hidden' cost - all the data you'll consume using the web, email and other apps. When you sign up, you will need to consider data on your tariffs.

Having to fork out extra cash to get online for those additional features and services can be a painful prospect, but there are ways to minimise the stress and monetary strain.

The most important thing to remember is that whatever data allowance you pick up, exceeding it could result in costly excess data usage charges. However just because you reach your mobile data limit doesn’t mean you have to stop browsing - there are other methods to make your internet go farther that don’t cost the earth.

[Related: Get the cheapest data tariffs here]

WiFi hotspots

What some smartphone users may not realise is that you can connect to your home WiFi network and browse the internet to your heart’s content, it won’t affect your mobile data allowance in the slightest or cost anything.

Connecting to WiFi networks isn’t just confined to the home, there are public WiFi hotspots active all over the country and for the most part, they’re open and free to use, you just need to know where to look.

Coffee shops, (especially big chains), pubs and bars tend to partner up with companies who specialise in providing WiFi access. As well as independent WiFi networks, brands such as The Cloud and BT Openzone operate in many areas of the UK offering free or cheap WiFi access to prospective users.

[Related: Save money on your new smartphone]

The Cloud
Connecting to The Cloud is free to Sky customers and a range of partners including: Wetherspoon, Café Nero, Wagamama, Giraffe, Phones4U, Nintendo, Odeon, Pret, Network Rail and Pizza Express. This company offers mobile app and an online map showing every Cloud hotspot in the country.

BT Openzone
Openzone WiFi hotspots can be found nationwide, plus the service is setup to work with associated partners internationally with around three million accessible hotspots in all. In the UK, users can opt for timed portions of WiFi access across BT Openzone hotspots or choose to use the service on a subscription basis. If you’re lucky enough to be a BT broadband customer, you have access to the full spread of UK Openzone hotspots completely free. Like The Cloud, BT offers an online map showing every accessible hotspot, alongside a mobile app to manage access.

Mobile tariffs

It you find yourself using your phone more and more for online tasks, you’ll need a tariff with unlimited data, which means you won’t incur charges if you go over your allowance. Fortunately there are more and more of these available, here’s a selection of the best value PAYG/SIM only and Pay Monthly tariffs to look for.

This SIM-only carrier offers low cost unlimited data plans as part of its new assortment of Goodybags. The cheapest plan offers 1GB of mobile data usage for £10 a month alongside 250 minutes and unlimited texts, however for just £2 more a month, users can have unlimited data. giffgaff doesn’t allow tethering, so if you want to get online using a WiFi only tablet you’ll have to looking into their Gigabags for standalone mobile data away from your smartphone.

Virgin Media Big Data (PAYG)
One of Virgin Media’s newest creations, its Big Data plan offers users unlimited mobile data, 300 texts and airtime relative to £10 worth of top up each month, however topping up £15 a month switches the text allowance from 300 to unlimited too. Virgin Media broadband, TV or landline customers also receive free Virgin to Virgin calls on either of these plans.

T-Mobile: The Full Monty (Pay Monthly)
T-Mobile is one of a handful of carriers who offer a comprehensive package such as this, whether it’s SIM-only or purchased with a smartphone, the Full Monty plan offers unlimited calls, texts and data (with a fair-usage policy in place after 1.5GB). It is worth noting that tethering isn’t included on any Full Monty plan (the plan is available across a range of prices), but T-Mobile do offer other plans with tethering.

Three: The One Plan (Pay Monthly)
This single plan is available SIM-free or with a multitude of the carriers devices and the allowance remain constant. The One Plan comes with truly unlimited data, 2000 minutes, 5000 Three-to-Three minutes and 5000 texts, plus tethering is included. It costs little as £25 a month (but prices vary depending on handset).

Virgin Media: Premier (Pay Monthly)
The company’s new Premier tariff fits the bill for affordable unlimited data. For just £23 a month, users receive unlimited calls to Virgin mobiles and landlines, 2500 any-network minutes, unlimited texts, inclusive phone insurance with a 24-hour replacement service, the first six months half price at £11.50 and of course unlimited mobile data. Virgin Media customers also get £5 a month off.

If you want a Pay Monthly tariff and you know the phone you want to get, check out Yahoo’s Mobile Phones Deals or check out SIM-Only Deals.

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