Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

If you're heading off to uni for the first time this Autumn, your phone is going to take on a whole new level of importance. It'll help manage your social and study commitments, keep you in contact with your department, guide you around a new place … you might even use it to call home from time to time.

If you're an existing student, you might be looking to upgrade, improve, or just have a change. Either way, sorting the right phone and the right deal for you can mean big savings and have a big impact on the smooth running of your day to day student life, so we asked Adam Cable of Mobile Phone Checker to help us put together a list of things to consider.

What sort of setup?

Before you get mesmerised by the parade of shiny handsets out there (ooh, pretty), take a moment to think about your basic setup. Does a contract or Pay As You Go arrangement suit you better? (It's worth having the conversation about who is paying for it, too.)

Both have their benefits - a contract can be convenient, while PAYG can give you more control over spending, for example. To pick one, Adam suggests starting with the amount you want to spend.

“Set a realistic budget and find a contract or pay as you go tariff that matches your requirements,” he says. “When picking a contract always over-estimate the number of minutes, texts and data allowance you need as it's cheaper to stay within your contract allowance.”

Bling vs. Budget

Now, the handset. Newer models tend to be faster, do more and have better camera functions – important to help you remember Freshers' Week – but they can come at an extra cost. The trick is to strike a balance between the model and the money, and don't forget: the new kid on the block will probably only stay new for about three minutes.

“There's always a new phone about to be released so it's hard to have the very latest gadget,” says Adam. He suggests sticking to the big names (Apple, Samsung, HTC) and avoiding the very latest version. “For instance, there isn't much difference between the HTC One (M7) and the HTC One (M8), so check prices to see whether the latest phone is worth the extra money.”

Getting Covered

If you're going to uni in the UK there are very few places that don't have any mobile phone coverage. However, it can vary and you don't want to arrive in your room all ready to send a gloating / fearful text to your friends only to be confronted with a 'No Signal' message.

“It's always wise to check coverage maps for your home and university campus before you purchase a contract,” says Adam. “There are only four main network providers now - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - so it doesn't take long to check. For peace of mind ask someone already at your Uni to see how they get on.”

You can also visit the Mobile Phone Checker site, which shows the coverage of all the main operators plus the secondary providers (like Tesco, Virgin, GiffGaff, etc.).

Deal or No Deal

Finally, giving your mobile setup a bit of thought can both save you money, and make you some. Shop around and compare deals and you might end up with some spare pennies, says Adam. “If you're grabbing a new phone, compare to make sure you get the best deal available. You really can find some cracking ones online.”

Be wary of cashback deals: they can take a while to pay out, or you might find that your provider wriggles out of the arrangement courtesy of a loophole. If you do go for one, assess any deal without taking the cashback into account, so it's a nice bonus if you receive it, but won't leave you out of pocket.

Finally, don't leave that old phone languishing in a drawer, as it might be worth something. “You can unlock some serious cash by selling your phone to CeX, on eBay, or by using an online phone recycling service,” says Adam.

So there you have it: spend a little time sorting your phone out over the summer and you'll be nicely connected when you arrive for uni. Just remember to add 'home' into your favourites; they'll only worry otherwise...