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The best UK phone providers 2024

Choosing the best UK phone provider depends on what you most value in a contract. Here’s what each network offers in terms of devices, monthly cost and add-ons.

Best cell phone providers in the UK

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the best UK phone providers. The big four – EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three – all claim 99% UK coverage over 4G, but the figures drop dramatically for 5G coverage. It’s worth remembering that ‘coverage’ doesn’t guarantee a strong signal, so it’s a good idea to ask local friends which network they use and their experiences with it before diving in. That’s especially important if you live in a rural or remote area.

Each network offers different strengths and weaknesses, from call quality and add-ons to the big one – monthly cost. You also need to consider which smartphones the best UK phone networks offer, as you may find some of the best mid-range phones at one store but not others.

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At Pocket Tactics, our experts spend days testing games, phones, tech, and services. We always share honest opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.

No time to read the whole list? Here are our top three picks for the best UK phone providers:

EE

The best UK cell phone provider overall.

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EE specifications:
Network EE
Contract lengths 24 or 36 months
Reasons to buy
  • Strong signal
  • Fast speeds
Reasons to avoid
  • Not the cheapest

EE is, by far, the best provider for cell phones in the UK because not only can you get an assortment of phone brands across a range of well-priced contracts, but the company also fully supports 5G compatibility across the UK meaning you should get high speeds and great service regardless of your location.

To make sure you’re paying an amount that suits your wallet, EE has a range of choices for those of you who are after monthly contracts, sim-only deals, or even if you just need a shiny new device. EE has contracts as low as £10 a month and others that are pushing the £100 boundary for high data and minutes allowance.

Beyond the signal and prices, EE also offers exclusive extras with some of its contracts, these can include Apple One, Apple Music, BT Sports, and more, making EE a prime choice if you want to cut out the cost of one of these subscriptions.

O2

The best UK cell phone provider for extras.

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O2 specifications:
Network O2
Contract lengths Three to 36 months
Reasons to buy
  • O2 Priority perks
  • Great signal
Reasons to avoid
  • Expensive

If you like going to the theater, eating in restaurants, and going to various events and concerts, O2 might be the phone provider for you in the UK. Big names such as Madonna and Taylor Swift make use of the famous O2 arenas found throughout the UK and, as extremely popular artists who know how to put on a show, it can be hard to get tickets to see them.

That’s where being an O2 customer comes in, as you get access to priority tickets, giving you a chance to secure your ticket before the general public even gets a look in.

Looking beyond the extras, O2 offers a good signal service, so you can always get hold of someone in a pinch. Back when I used O2 as my provider, I could always get a signal, though, depending on where you are, you might not be able to get 5G, or might have slightly less signal power than those with different providers. A problem that you may encounter with various cell phone providers.

Vodafone

The best UK cell phone provider for signal.

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Vodafone specifications:
Network Vodafone
Contract lengths Three to 36 months
Reasons to buy
  • Fantastic signal
  • Stores across the UK
Reasons to avoid
  • Fewer perks

Vodafone is a solid pick if you want a reliable signal, but with the price that a contract costs, you might want to be sure that this is the network for you. I can’t fault the company’s reliability with its services, but there are things that let it down when compared to the likes of EE and O2.

For some, a great signal only gets you so far, but others want the great bonuses you can get with O2 and EE, so should you want Apple Music to be part of your contract or wish to get priority tickets for a gig, this isn’t the network for you.

Finally, there are Vodafone stores all over the place in the UK (it’s perhaps the most common one to stumble across when out shopping), so should you be in need of assistance, or are looking to join the network, it’s as simple as walking into a store.

Three

The best UK cell phone provider for contract costs.

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Three specifications:
Network Three
Contract lengths 12, 24, or 36 months
Reasons to buy
  • Cheap contracts
  • Varied options
Reasons to avoid
  • No extra perks

You can frequently land a good contract with Three, particularly if you opt for a sim-only contract. However, killer prices come at another cost – cell phone signal. Three’s signal strength has a tendency to waver pretty much all over the place, so it can be a bit of a gamble as to whether or not you get a strong signal.

There is one thing you might want to bear in mind and that’s, from personal experience, Three may struggle to uphold its promises from time to time. For instance, when abroad, the company claims you can always connect to the network, but that’s simply not the case.

On a holiday in Lanzarote, I had great signal with EE, yet, despite paying extra to ensure they could contact family in the UK in case of emergency, my friend couldn’t get a signal with Three, and when they tried to get hold of customer service, they didn’t get any help. Should you want to ensure you have a signal regardless of where you are in the world, it’s Vodafone or EE that you should consider.

Still, for people after a bargain, it’s hard to argue with Three’s prices. However, it’s also worth noting that the likes of Virgin Mobile, GiffGaff, BT, and more use the EE and O2 networks, so if you’re after a bargain with a good signal, you might be able to capitalize on a new customer contract with one of those providers. Just remember that Three may well offer unlimited data, calls, and texts at a better rate. It’s all a balancing act.

iD Mobile

The best UK phone provider for SIM-only deals.

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iD Mobile specifications:
Network Three
Contract lengths 24 months
Reasons to buy
  • Discount SIM-only deals
  • No EU roaming charges
Reasons to avoid
  • Not as speedy as competitors

Already got the phone of your dreams, but are ready to switch to a new service provider? If that’s the case, we recommend iD Mobile, whose prices can blow its competitors out of the water.

Part of the Currys empire (along with Carphone Warehouse), iD Mobile offers a solid service at a discount price. If you really look closely at it, you can see that providers such as EE do offer better speeds, but the difference in speeds isn’t too substantial, so it might be worth sacrificing that for what could be a better deal with iD Mobile.

Those of you traveling or going on holiday might be happy to know that this service provider doesn’t apply roaming charges when abroad in the EU. It’s always nice not to have to worry about that when you take a trip (I certainly don’t like having to pay them). Roaming fees do still apply outside the EU, so remember that if you visit somewhere like the United States, that’s still a pretty sweet cherry on the cake.

Sky Mobile

The best phone provider for data rollover.

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Sky Mobile specifications:
Network O2
Contract lengths 12 and 24 months
Reasons to buy
  • Amazing rollover features
  • Solid coverage
Reasons to avoid
  • Pricier than competitors
  • Tricky customer service

Don’t you hate it when you run out of data during a busy month, knowing full well that you had several gigabytes left over the month before? Well, thanks to Sky Mobile that can be a thing of the past courtesy of its data rollover feature, of which it boasts the best on this list.

With Sky Mobile’s Piggybank, you can save up your data each and every month and dip into it whenever you want. All of a sudden, your monthly limit feels more like pocket money that you can save up for whenever you might need it. It’s the kind of thing where, once you’re used to it, you’ll wonder why you were ever satisfied with services that don’t do that.

Of course, Sky, being Sky, is an absolutely huge corporation, and if you ever need to get ahold of someone to help you with a problem, you might have to jump through several hoops in the form of countless answering machines before you reach a member of staff. It can be, admittedly, quite frustrating but Sky Mobile has so much going for it that you might let lacklustre customer support slide.

Smarty

Best contract-free phone provider.

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Smarty specifications:
Network Three
Contract length 1 month
Reasons to buy
  • Pay-as-you-go available
  • Ultra-cheap data deals
  • Impressive 4G and 5G performance
  • Free EU roaming
  • Short-term contracts
Reasons to avoid
  • Lacks perks
  • No device options
  • Unable to speak to support agents via phone

If you’re looking for a phone network that offers exceedingly low prices, Smarty is an option worth considering. This no-frills, sim-only network provider offers a range of contracts with flexible pricing and various data allowances, along with unlimited calls and texts, regardless of contract choice. 

For a contract that promises coverage that’s both reliable and speedy, Smarty is a great option. It also boasts 5G that covers more than 60% of the UK and competes with EE, via Three’s shared network coverage.

For a contract that offers reliable coverage at low prices, Smarty is a safe bet. However, if you’re after a contract that comes with a device or want to be able to chat to customer support over the phone, Smarty might not be the best option for you.

Mobiles.co.uk

Provider with the most options

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Mobiles.co.uk specifications:
Network Vodafone
Contract length 24 months
Reasons to buy
  • Easy to compare plans
  • High Trustpilot reviews
Reasons to avoid
  • Fewer perks
  • Poor customer service

Mobiles.co.uk is a website that specializes in all things mobile. It’s a one-stop shop for phone accessories, SIMs, and handsets. Visiting their website, you can find plans for Vodafone and iD Mobile meaning you can easily compare plans across different networks from a singular location.

They also have a wide range of refurbished phones of different grades, meaning you can pick up the latest handset at a slightly lower price depending on how scuffed the device is. These phones come with a one-year warranty so you don’t need to worry about faults that may crop up.

The caveat of Mobiles.co.uk is that we’ve heard some horror stories about customer service. There are plenty of complaints of customers struggling to get hold of representatives from the company if there are issues, so while the prices might be low, it’s important to note that if you’re the type that likes to try and get in touch with a brand and vent your frustrations or ask for a refund, it might be a struggle with this option.

How we chose the best UK phone providers

When choosing the best UK phone providers, we first look at how reliable the network is and what its coverage is like, to ensure that you can consistently get at least 4G. We also consider whether the network supports 5G and if the provider offers data rollover – which is a very valuable feature, allowing you to make the most of your money.

Of course, we also look at contract prices and duration, as we know how important both value and flexibility can be. Beyond that, we take a look at any extra perks such as free subscriptions to Disney Plus and Apple Music, cinema tickets, priority events, and more – because who doesn’t love a freebie? If you want to learn more about how we specifically test phones and tech, take a look at our how we test article.

Now that you’ve got your provider covered, be sure to check out our list of the best power banks to keep your devices running all day, or the best earbuds for iPhone so you can make use of that data while out and about.