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The best Android phones from the UK’s MVNOs

Here is a list of some of the best Android phones and deals available from some of the UK's smaller (MVNO) carriers.
By
July 16, 2015
A SIM card.

We have covered the four major networks in the UK, but the market is also bustling with smaller retailers running on the larger infrastructure provided by the main networks. These MVNOs offer a range of SIM deals, contract options and are even selling flagship handsets these days.

So, let’s take a look at the best Android phones available from some of the UK’s minor mobile players.

#1 – Samsung Galaxy S6

Flagship smartphones aren’t just reserved for the big carriers these days, Samsung’s cutting edge Galaxy S6 is also available on a number of minor networks in the UK.

The Galaxy S6 features some of the finest mobile hardware around, including a 5.1-inch QHD AMOLED display, an octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a 16 megapixel camera. There’s also 4G LTE connectivity to make the most of the UK’s expansive 4G network.

Starting prices are roughly similar across all of the networks that we’re looking at, but Tesco Mobile is probably the best deal, as it offers the most minutes without an upfront cost. GiffGaff’s month-by-month contract is also a compelling option, if you can stump up the lump sum. A comparison of the cheapest offers from each carrier can be seen below, although they all offer more expensive options with additional data and some also allow for tweaking the contract length.

CarrierUp front costMonthly costContract MonthsMins/Texts/DataTotal CostPAYG Cost
Carrier
BT
Up front cost
-
Monthly cost
-
Contract Months
-
Mins/Texts/Data
-
Total Cost
-
PAYG Cost
£609
Carrier
iD
Up front cost
£99.99
Monthly cost
£35.50
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
600/5000/1GB
Total Cost
£951.99
PAYG Cost
-
Carrier
Tesco
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£36
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
1000/5000/1GB
Total Cost
£864
PAYG Cost
-
Carrier
GiffGaff
Up front cost
£37
Monthly cost
£33.25
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
500/ ∞/1GB
Total Cost
£835
PAYG Cost
£489
Carrier
Virgin
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£42
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
250/∞/250MB
Total Cost
£1008
PAYG Cost
£888

Specs

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440×2560 resolution
  • 2.1GHz Samsung Exynos 7420 SoC
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32/64/128GB internal storage
  • 16MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,550mAh battery
  • 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm, 138g
  • Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum or White Pearl colours
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop

#2 – Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony’s Xperia range can be spotted in numerous advertisements up and down the UK and the Z3 Compact is still one of the most unique smartphones on the market.

Despite its compact form factor, the Z3 Compact still features processing power that rivals larger flagships. The handset also comes with a 20.7 megapixel camera for crisp photos, 2GB of RAM for smooth multitasking and IP68 water and dust resistance for extra protection.

The Z3 Compact is also less expensive than many larger flagship smartphones. Virgin Mobile is by far the cheapest deal, although the call and data limits are quite restrictive. Fortunately this can be bumped up to a more competitive 2500 mins, 1GB of data and unlimited texts for £24 per month.

CarrierUp front costMonthly costContract MonthsMins/Texts/DataTotal CostPAYG Cost
Carrier
BT
Up front cost
-
Monthly cost
-
Contract Months
-
Mins/Texts/Data
-
Total Cost
-
PAYG Cost
£361.24
Carrier
iD
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£29.50
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
600/5000/1GB
Total Cost
£708
PAYG Cost
-
Carrier
Tesco
Up front cost
-
Monthly cost
-
Contract Months
-
Mins/Texts/Data
-
Total Cost
-
PAYG Cost
£429
Carrier
GiffGaff
Up front cost
£37
Monthly cost
£24
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
500/ ∞/1GB
Total Cost
£613
PAYG Cost
£299
Carrier
Virgin
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£19
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
250/ ∞/250MB
Total Cost
£456
PAYG Cost
£336

Specs

  • 4.6-inch IPS LCD display with 720×1280 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB internal storage with 128GB microSD card support
  • 20.7MP rear camera, 2.2MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,600mAh battery
  • 127.3 x 64.9 x 8.6 mm, 129g
  • Black, White or Green
  • Android 4.4 KitKat (Android 5.1 Lollipop update)

#3 – LG G4

If you are in the market for a larger high-end smartphone, then the 5.5-inch LG G4 is the most recently major flagship in its class.

As well as featuring LG’s latest curved QHD LCD display, a high-end Snapdragon 808 processing package and 3GB of RAM, a lot of fuss has been made about the handset’s camera. With a 16 megapixel resolution and f/1.8 aperture, the G4 boasts impressive camera capability in bright and low light conditions.

The G4’s specifications are compelling enough, but the phone is also a fair bit cheaper than its competitors. Over the course of a 24 month contract you can save hundreds of pounds over the Galaxy S6, and its PAYG price tag is also notable cheaper from some networks.

The best deal this time comes from GiffGaff, which offers a decent monthly package, the lowest overall contract cost and also has the smartphone reasonably priced if you can stump up the cash up front.

CarrierUp front costMonthly costContract MonthsMins/Texts/DataTotal CostPAYG Cost
Carrier
BT
Up front cost
-
Monthly cost
-
Contract Months
-
Mins/Texts/Data
-
Total Cost
-
PAYG Cost
£482.41
Carrier
iD
Up front cost
£9.99
Monthly cost
£37.50
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
600/5000/2GB
Total Cost
£909.99
PAYG Cost
-
Carrier
GiffGaff
Up front cost
£37
Monthly cost
£30
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
500/ ∞/1GB
Total Cost
£757
PAYG Cost
£439
Carrier
Virgin
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£25
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
250/ ∞/250MB
Total Cost
£600
PAYG Cost
£480

Specs

  • 5.5-inch LCD display with 1440×2560 resolution
  • 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SoC
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB internal storage with support for 128GB microSD card
  • 16MP rear camera, 8MP front camera
  • Removable 3,000mAh battery
  • 149.1 x 75.3 x 8.9 mm, 154g
  • Metallic Grey, Red Leather
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop

#4 – Motorola Moto E

Next in our list of best Android phones is the Moto E, an excellent low cost phone with everything you need for day to day tasks.

The phone comes with a compact 4.5-inch display, 1GB of RAM and a quad-core Snapdragon 410 SoC. There’s also a 5 megapixel camera for some basic photography, 8GB of storage with a microSD card slot and the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop OS on-board. The inclusion of 4G in the latest model also ensures that you can make the most of the faster data speeds now available in the UK.

While the specifications aren’t top of the line, the price point is very hard to beat. Contract costs start at just £10 per month with no up front costs, or you can pick your own SIM-only deal by buying the handset up front for just £100 from Tesco Mobile.

CarrierUp front costMonthly costContract MonthsMins/Texts/DataTotal CostPAYG Cost
Carrier
BT
Up front cost
-
Monthly cost
-
Contract Months
-
Mins/Texts/Data
-
Total Cost
-
PAYG Cost
£149
Carrier
iD
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£10.50
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
300/5000/500MB
Total Cost
£252
PAYG Cost
-
Carrier
Tesco
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£10
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
250/5000/500MB
Total Cost
£240
PAYG Cost
£99
Carrier
Virgin
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£10
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
250/ ∞/250MB
Total Cost
£240
PAYG Cost
-

Specs

  • 4.5-inch qHD IPS LCD with 540 x 960 resolution
  • 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of on-board storage, MicroSD expansion up to 32GB
  • 5MP rear cam, VGA front cam
  • Non-removable 2390mAh battery
  • 129.9 x 66.8 x 12.3 mm, 145g
  • Removable colored backs
  • Black, White
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

#5 – Samsung Galaxy A3

There’s a fine balance to be struck between affordable hardware and building a device that still feels and look great. This is where Samsung’s Galaxy A3 comes in, which comes with a well-designed metal-rimmed case but a price tag that won’t break the bank.

The internal hardware is quite similar to the Moto E, but Samsung has thrown in a better rear camera, an additional 512MB of RAM and double the internal memory, which makes up for the increased price.

All of our MVNOs stock the Galaxy A3, which has helped keep the price very competitive. The best deal is awarded to the Carphone Warehouse’s ID network this time, which probably offers the best balance of data, calls and price.

CarrierUp front costMonthly costContract MonthsMins/Texts/DataTotal CostPAYG Cost
Carrier
BT
Up front cost
-
Monthly cost
-
Contract Months
-
Mins/Texts/Data
-
Total Cost
-
PAYG Cost
£269
Carrier
iD
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£17.50
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
300/5000/500MB
Total Cost
£420
PAYG Cost
-
Carrier
Tesco
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£20
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
250/5000/500MB
Total Cost
£480
PAYG Cost
-
Carrier
GiffGaff
Up front cost
£37
Monthly cost
£19
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
500/ ∞/1GB
Total Cost
£493
PAYG Cost
£199.99
Carrier
Virgin
Up front cost
£0
Monthly cost
£15
Contract Months
24
Mins/Texts/Data
250/ ∞/250MB
Total Cost
£360
PAYG Cost
£239.99

Specs

  • 4.5-inch Super AMLOED display with 540×960 resolution
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC
  • 1.5GB of RAM
  • 16GB of internal storage with up to 64GB via microSD
  • 8MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Non-removable 1,900mAh battery
  • 130.1 x 65.5 x 6.9 mm, 110g
  • Black, White or Silver
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat, upgradable to Android 5.0.2