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Phone contracts from Carphone Warehouse vs mobile networks direct

Carphone Warehouse logo and a phone

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

We compare the differences in prices and benefits between taking out a phone contract via Carphone Warehouse and each mobile network directly. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 29th May 2019.

How Carphone Warehouse works

Carphone Warehouse are resellers who buy their own phones

Carphone Warehouse store front

They're a retailer not a price comparison websiteRead "About Us"

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

When you join a mobile network on a phone contract directly, that network provides both the handset and the SIM card to make their services work on it. Joining via Carphone Warehouse is slightly different:

When you take a phone contract via Carphone Warehouse, you still become a customer of the mobile network you join and your single monthly direct debit is paid to that provider too (CPW arrange all this automatically).

But in the background, Carphone Warehouse have actually provided the phone handset themselves (so if you have any problems with the device, it's them you deal with). The networks pay them for getting new customers.

The benefit for you as a customer is that Carphone Warehouse have huge buying power for phones, meaning they can sell lower-priced contracts than the networks themselves. They also overlay extra offers on top too.

The disadvantage can be that you might miss out on specific benefits on each mobile network by joining Carphone Warehouse instead of direct. We've picked through each network below to find differences.

Networks sold by Carphone Warehouse: EE | iD Mobile | O2 | Virgin Mobile | Vodafone

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EE

Usually cheaper prices on EE via Carphone Warehouse

EE logo over a range of phones

You can filter for only EE dealsSee EE deals

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

To answer whether it's cheaper to join EE via Carphone Warehouse or directly, we did some quick spot checks across a range of phones and plans.

The total contract cost over 24 months on each phone was lower when you joined via Carphone Warehouse in nearly all cases, apart from strong offers on particular plans.

Carphone Warehouse also have a larger range of phones that you can take on the EE network than EE do directly, because they buy their own phones separately.

This is of course only a general view. Realistically, prices vary per phone and plan you choose. So use our comparison tool above to compare EE vs Carphone Warehouse latest prices more accurately.

Useful link: Use our comparison tool

Added benefits on EE are different with Carphone Warehouse

EE benefits via Carphone Warehouse

Only EE's main type of plans are availableSee EE benefits

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

EE have recently launched a range of premium plans that they're calling Smart plans. These come with an entitlement to add one or two extra "Swappable benefits", which you can change throughout your contract (read more here).

If you join EE via Carphone Warehouse, you can't get these new types of plans. Instead you get EE's standard ones, which still come with a number of benefits.

Most notably, you'll get free trials to the BT Sport App (for 3 months), Apple Music (6 months), MTV Play (6 months) and Amazon Prime Video (6 months).

It will depend on your choice of phone and plan but the savings by signing up to EE via Carphone Warehouse vs direct, could make up for not getting any swappable benefits for free.

Useful link: Compare prices per phone and plan using our tool

iD Mobile

Pricing almost identical direct or via Carphone Warehouse

iD Mobile phone range with Carphone Warehouse

Choose to see only iD's phone contractsSee iD phone deals

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

To get a general impression on how pricing compares between buying via idmobile.co.uk or carphonewarehouse.com, we've done a few spot checks on some selected models.

What we found is that on a lot of phones the pricing is identical on the majority of plans but you can sometimes find lower upfront costs via Carphone Warehouse.

On other higher-end phones, we found that iD Mobile had a larger selection of data plans available when you went direct than with Carphone Warehouse.

There are thousands of phone and tariff combinations, so it's impossible for us to give an accurate general view. Use our phone comparison tool above to find your ideal combination.

Useful link: Use phone comparison tool here

You get the same benefits on iD via Carphone Warehouse

iD Mobile Carphone Warehouse banner

No disadvantage vs joining directSee all benefits

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

Unsurprisingly you'll get all the same network benefits on iD Mobile, whether you join them via Carphone Warehouse or via their own online shop at idmobile.co.uk (given that iD belongs to Carphone).

iD Mobile's main unique perk is data rollover, which lets you keep any data you've not used at the end of the month, to use in your next month. So you don't lose what you've paid for (full details here at idmobile.co.uk).

The other reasons to join that Carphone Warehouse promote are common to all other mobile networks too: free EU roaming and the ability to cap how much you can overspend each month.

If you're interested in iD Mobile, there's nothing to lose by joining via Carphone Warehouse, so we'd let the price be the main factor in your choice of where to sign up (use our price comparison tool above).

Useful link: Read our iD Mobile review

O2

O2 often cheaper to buy directly than Carphone Warehouse

O2 phone contracts from Carphone Warehouse

Spot tests suggest O2 usually cheaper directSee O2 deals

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

From doing a few spot checks on pricing on O2 direct vs Carphone Warehouse, we'd say the general picture is that it's cheaper in total to buy from O2.co.uk. Here's why we think that may be:

Carphone Warehouse will have different contractual arrangements with each mobile network. And it could just be the case that O2 are reliant on Carphone Warehouse for their sales so don't throw as good deals at them.

O2's phone contracts bought directly from O2.co.uk are based on handset financing (loans for the cost of the phone). This often allows networks to sell phones more cheaply than traditional contracts (not based on loans).

Again, this is only a general impression. It's not going to be universally true for every phone and tariff combination. Use our price comparison tool for a more precise picture.

Useful link: Compare prices direct vs Carphone Warehouse

You don't get O2 Refresh benefits via Carphone Warehouse

O2 benefits via Carphone Warehouse

Fewer benefits than joining directSee what you get

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

In our explanation of how Carphone Warehouse works above, we explain how it's them who provide the phone, not the network itself. This has price advantages but does mean you lose networks' phone-based benefits.

When you sign up to O2 via Carphone Warehouse, you're not joining on an O2 Refresh tariff, so you won't get the benefit of being able to pay off your contract and upgrade early or choose a custom contract length.

It does mean though that your deal isn't based on a loan (like when you join directly at O2.co.uk). So the credit checking requirements may not be as stringent (we have no insider info on O2 or Carphone's policies).

We also don't expect O2's WiFi calling to work by default on Android phones bought from Carphone Warehouse, because they don't have O2's own software pre-installed on them to make it work. iPhone models should work ok.

Useful link: Check prices on O2 direct vs Carphone Warehouse

Virgin Mobile

You can only pay in full upfront on Carphone Warehouse's Virgin Mobile phone contracts

Virgin Mobile via Carphone Warehouse

No actual pay monthly deals from VirginSee Virgin deals

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

You can't really join Virgin Mobile via Carphone Warehouse on a pay monthly phone contract, even though they are theoretically included in their comparison.

When you actually dig down into it, all Carphone Warehouse are selling you is the phone at its full upfront cost (i.e. just buying it outright) and then a SIM Only plan from Virgin.

Basically, there's no comparison. If you want a Virgin Mobile deal that spreads the cost of the phone over a 24 or 36-month contract, the only way to join them is at virginmedia.com (see phone range here).

We suspect the reason any Virgin Mobile phone deals are featured at all at carphonewarehouse.com is more to do with creating the appearance of comparing a larger number of deals, than a genuine attempt to sell them.

Useful link: Use our phone price comparison tool

Most the same Virgin benefits via Carphone Warehouse

Virgin benefits on Carphone Warehouse

Virgin's own website expains their benefitsSee Virgin benefits

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Ignoring the point above that Carphone Warehouse don't really offer phone contracts from Virgin Mobile, here's what benefits you do and don't get:

Because you're buying the phone outright, there's none of the usual early upgrades that you can get when you sign up to Virgin's Freestyle phone contracts at virginmedia.com (based on finance).

But if you do join via Carphone Warehouse, you'll still get the standard Virgin Mobile benefits of data rollover (keeping unused data for next month) and free Whatsapp messaging (not using up data for Whatsapp).

On SIM only, there can be advantage to joining Virgin Mobile via Carphone Warehouse but on phone contracts, there's not currently any point until they start offering proper pay monthly deals.

Useful link: Get a pay monthly phone direct

Vodafone

Carphone Warehouse generally cheaper than Vodafone direct

Carphone Warehouse's Vodafone phone contracts

Our spot checks found Carphone Warehouse cheaperSee Vodafone prices

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

Carphone Warehouse buy their own phones that they sell on the mobile networks' plans. They have huge buying power, so can buy the devices more cheaply.

This would be our explanation why our spot checks found that joining Vodafone via Carphone Warehouse is nearly always cheaper than direct (apart from occasional promotions).

From our industry knowledge, we know that Vodafone are also probably Carphone Warehouse's biggest selling partners, so they probably give them more favourable plan-pricing too.

We only say this as a rule of thumb of course. It's always going to be worthwhile to check current prices direct and via Carphone Warehouse to make sure you're getting the very best deal possible for your phone and plan combination.

Useful link: Compare prices using our tool

Vodafone plans via Carphone Warehouse have same benefits

Vodafone benefits via Carphone Warehouse

Benefits vary per plan on VodafoneSee Vodafone benefits

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

Vodafone sell their phone contracts on two types of plans when you buy direct at vodafone.co.uk. This is the same when you buy via Carphone Warehouse too.

Look out for Red Entertainment plans, which let you chose an entertainment service subscription to add to your mobile deal and extend the number of inclusive roaming destinations to 110.

Otherwise, most other plans sold via Carphone Warehouse still give you standard inclusive EU roaming but don't come with the entertainment extras.

We're unaware of any other disadvantage to joining Vodafone via Carphone Warehouse on a phone contract.

Useful link: Carphone Warehouse's Vodafone page

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