Smartphone service providers always entice you with several GB of data or promise of insane speeds on their networks. However, most of these tend to exceed what the end-users really need. The primary goal, of course, is to earn more money, and that’s exactly where your hard-earned money is headed – to the coffers of these mobile service providers.
As part of NextPit’s mobile plan research, I will show you how you can find the most suitable mobile plans based on your needs. I’ve also pieced together a checklist of items you need to look out for when signing a contract!
Since I don’t know exactly how much data you need each month, I’ll stick to a general usage pattern in this article. Read this article like a guide, so that you will be able to get a better idea of where you stand and what your needs are. With these clues in mind, you can then specifically look for the mobile plan that meets your needs at the best possible price.
1. How much data volume do I actually need?
Pretty much all mobile plans in 2021 come with a certain quota of data. This is depicted in GB and, strictly speaking, describes the quota of high-speed data that will be made available to you each month. If a mobile plan mentions 5 GB of “data volume”, this does not mean that you only have a quota of 5 GB on the mobile network.
Rather, once you hit the 5 GB high-speed Internet quota, your connection would be throttled. However, there are also mobile plans where the LTE speed after passing your data quota is adequate for WhatsApp and navigation purposes. However, we will come back to this point later. This is because we would first like to know how many GB of data volume is required in the first place.
Data Usage NextPit
Thanks to my colleague Rahul Srinivas for revealing his mobile data usage for this article! / © NextPit
The best thing to do right now is to take a piece of paper and pen or open up your diary. Mark in red the days when you will actually be on the road with your smartphone and when there will be no Wi-Fi coverage on your trip. This has especially changed in terms of one’s work situation in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, as the need for mobile data has certainly decreased drastically.
Go to the settings of your smartphone and look for your mobile internet usage statistics. There, you can see how much of your mobile data you actually consumed last month. Even though I have had to change my smartphone often in “Techtember”, I am sure that I use at most 1 GB of mobile data per month. Strictly speaking, I switch from one Wi-Fi network to the next and only use Spotify and WhatsApp while I am on the move.
2. How fast should my LTE connection be?
The next point that mobile service operators like to advertise is this: The speed of their mobile internet. In my checks on NextPit, I like to promote high-speed plans for those of you who want to work on the go or stream movies. But once again, you should pay attention to your requirements. In the following table, I have summarized a few points of reference for your consideration.
Your connection must be this fast
Service Representative of Min. Max.
YouTube Video streaming 0.7 Mbps at 360p 20 Mbps at 4K
Netflix Video streaming 3 Mbps at SD 25 Mbps at 4K
Spotify Music streaming 24 Kbit/s 320 Kbit/s
Stadia Game streaming 10 Mbit/s 35 Mbit/s at 4K
In addition to your needs, you should also be aware of an addendum in mobile plans that lists the keywords “up to …”. This is because mobile service providers use it to protect themselves against disgruntled customers who complain about slow Internet speeds. The most notorious example is the 1 Gbit cable contract that Vodafone has been offering since 2019.
Theoretically, you can surf up to 1 Gbps, but in reality, these speeds are only achieved in a few locations and then only at certain times. The perfect launchpad into the next topic!
3. Do you really need 5G?
Does your smartphone already support the new 5G mobile standard? If so, a contract with 5G support might already be worthwhile. In some major cities, 5G networks and 5G-compatible anchor networks are already rather widespread. By doing so, you’re already more or less enjoying the benefits that 5G will offer in the coming years.
In addition to faster speeds, this includes additional capacity for subscribers on a cell tower or lower latencies. If you live in the countryside or in smaller cities, however, 5G isn’t quite as relevant yet. In my 5G test with the Redmi Note 9T in Berlin, I was pretty underwhelmed by the overall coverage. I could only achieve significantly higher speeds in the middle of Berlin. And if you live there, you may not really need to worry about cheaper mobile plans.
4. All-inclusive flat rate for SMS & calls?
We can deal with this point in brief: Do you make a lot of phone calls and still compose SMS instead of resorting to WhatsApp or its alternatives? Then be sure to check the details for flat rates when it comes to SMS and calls. This way you don’t have to worry about additional costs when calling or texting.
Do you make a lot of phone calls and still compose SMS instead of resorting to WhatsApp? / © BongkarnGraphic / Shutterstock.com
5. Should I get a new smartphone?
It is really tempting to get a new smartphone with your new mobile plan because the handsets on offer tend to be surprisingly affordable. To obtain a current flagship smartphone for an additional payment of a token sum in addition to the mobile plan sounds like a gift that the service provider gives you for your loyalty. However, in most cases, there is nothing free with mobile plans.
This is because when you compare the mobile plan with the supposedly cheap smartphone on a basic plan, you will probably see a big difference in the monthly fee. The money that you save at the beginning of the contract is due to the fact that a staggered payment happens over the next 24 months. Often, you’ll pay more than what you would obtain via good online deals.
Don’t get me wrong: It can be profitable to pay off a new smartphone over the course of two years. However, you should not be lured into a financial trap unwittingly. Always calculate how expensive the mobile plan is first and how much the smartphone will cost over the next two years.
6. Price & hidden costs
We have already talked a lot about the features of mobile plans. However, the most important point at the end of the month is the amount debited from your bank account. When you sign up for a contract, you will also have to pay the one-off price of the included smartphone, connection fees, and shipping costs.
Bear in mind that these “hidden” costs will be charged in addition to the first month’s bill. The first month of a new mobile plan can be really expensive. Especially with selected service providers who scale up the monthly payments after six or 12 months. Over a short period of time, the monthly costs can double.
Of course, the mobile plans advertise the lowest monthly price possible to snag your attention. And postponing the higher payment until “in a few months” also has a psychological effect. The procrastination of high mobile plan costs can be quite dangerous and in a worst-case scenario, your credit rating might be negatively affected. Do tread with caution here, so due diligence is encouraged.
7. Contract periods and automatic renewals
Relevant to the total cost of a mobile plan are also these two points: How long does the contract run for and if there is a minimum term, what is the renewal period? You should also research the last possible termination date before signing the contract in order to maximize your purchase.
Trouble managing your schedule? These are the best calendar apps!
I would like to speak from my own experience and tell you about potential pitfalls. My mobile plan was more expensive after 12 months and then it was renewed for another year at a higher price just 9 months later. So overall, my Google Pixel 3 XL has become a really expensive device even though the deal seemed really good at first. Yes, it was all because of my own stupidity, but there are contracts where exactly this stupidity is exploited.
8. Roaming & more
Every little bit helps and some providers of mobile plansoffer cool additional add-ons. Be it another SIM card for your tablet, free roaming, or streaming options: free add-ons can be really fun if you can use them. So diligently check the contract details to see which freebies come with your contract.
And if you can’t use them, these add-ons are just as much a counter-argument for a more expensive contract as a high amount of data. Once again, here’s my tip: Write it down and compare the costs as well as the advantages and disadvantages using pen and paper.
9. Number portability and its benefits
Another short and sweet point: mobile service providers often allow you to port your phone number to a new carrier. The advantages of this are obvious, but there is a little unknown factor: In some cases, number portability is rewarded with bonuses or discounts. So keep an eye out for such offers and read the conditions carefully!
10. Search for a new mobile plan here on NextPit
As a digital magazine with a focus on smartphones, we of course also regularly report on cheap mobile plans. When checking prices at NextPit, we normally present a particularly good offer where we list all of its costs and included services. So keep an eye on the NextPit homepage or obtain information about new price listings via our RSS feed, alongside other communication channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram.
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