In the relatively short time since the first 4G networks launched in the UK, the way we use our phones has changed drastically. Faster networks make it easier to view rich websites, watch videos and stream music, which in turn means you can burn through a few gigabytes of data in no time.
That's why the major UK networks are offering bigger and bigger data bundles, with buckets in excess of 20GB becoming increasingly common. But it's not always easy to track down all the details, which is why we've done the legwork for you.
Let's take a look.
EE's contract-plus-phone plans max out at 20GB, with prices for current Android flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge ranging from £40.99 to £55.99 per month (for 24 months) depending on how much you pay upfront for the phone.
Otherwise, you're looking at SIM-only deals, which come in at up to 16GB as part of a 12-month plan. You'll pay £34.99 per month for a plan with double-speed 4G and EE's "Extra" benefits, which include free texts and calls in Europe.
If it's a PAYG (Pay As You Go) SIM you're after, EE's plans top out at 4GB, with prices between £25 and £15 depending on whether you want calls and texts, or just a prepaid data SIM.
Overages: Contract customers can buy extra data when they run out:
- 100MB for 24 hours costs £1.99
- 1GB for 7 days costs £6.99
- 10GB (usable until next bill date) costs £19.99
Vodafone's top tier 30GB deal is only available when you take out a contract with a new smartphone. Again, if you're going with a high-end phone like the GS7 edge you'll pay a premium — £63 per month and £10 upfront — for Voda's biggest data bucket.
That plan also comes with unlimited calls and texts, 4GB of inclusive roaming data and unlimited roaming calls and texts to the carrier's inclusive roaming zone. And you can choose between a free subscription to NowTV, Sky Sports Mobile or Spotify.
On SIM-only, your limit is 20GB on a 12-month plan, which costs £37 per month and comes with all the extras detailed above — unlimited calls and texts, 4GB roaming data, inclusive roaming calls and texts, and free optional subscriptions.
Overages: Vodafone customers can add 1GB for £6 a month by texting '1GB' to 40506, or 2GB for £10 a month by text '2GB' to the same number. Otherwise you'll be charged £6.50 for every 250MB.
O2's prices for flagship Android phones closely follow Vodafone's, with a GS7 edge and the biggest 30GB data bundle setting you back £63 per month and £9.99 upfront. That's as part of a 24-month plan that also includes unlimited calls and texts.
If you want to go SIM-free on O2 you'll have to settle for 25GB on a 12-month plan, which is available with unlimited calls and texts for £25 per month.
Overages: O2 has a range of bolt-ons that let customers add up to an extra 2GB of data for £13 per month. One-off data bolt-ons max out at 1GB for £10.
Three remains the only major UK network to offer unlimited "All You Can Eat" data. For a high-end phone like the GS7 edge with Three's AYCE data, you can expect to pay £49 upfront and £55 per month. Right now the carrier is running a promotion that halves your monthly bill to £27.50 per month for the first six months.
The 24-month plan also includes unlimited calls and texts.
If you want to go SIM-only, a 12-month All You Can Eat SIM will run you £16.50 for the first six months, then £33 per month for the last six months. On a rolling one-month contract, it's £36 per month.
- Carphone Warehouse often has different deals on O2, Vodafone and EE that may let you bag more data at a discount.
- GiffGaff's unlimited "Always On" data bundle gives you 6GB of data at 4G speeds, then unlimited data at a significantly reduced 256kbps. The speed limit applies from 8am to midnight.
- Tesco Mobile offers a SIM-only deal with 20GB of data for £30 per month, for 12 months.
Are you a heavy data user? Let us know how much mobile data you've burned through down in the comments!
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