Telecom News

Smartphones: Where Can You Get the Best Deals?

November 27, 2019 - Ralf Beyeler

Where can you get the best deals on phones? A study by independent online comparison service reveals major price differences between telecom service providers. It also shows that you can get better deals by buying phones separately from mobile plans.

Many consumers in Switzerland use the period leading up to Black Friday and Christmas to snap up deals on desired items – including smartphones. The 3 big telecom service providers Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt take advantage of the season to heavily advertise their smartphone deals. Swisscom, for example, is currently advertising discounts of up to 500 francs on phones.

But how good are these deals from telecom service providers? To find out, telecom expert Ralf Beyeler of independent online comparison service analyzed the offers.

The verdict: “Different service providers are cheapest depending on the phone make and the mobile plan used,” states Beyeler. But buying phones separately from mobile plans works out cheaper.

To get the best deals on phones, you should first buy the phone of your choice from an electronics retailer like Brack, Conrad Electronic, Digitec, Galaxus, Interdiscount, MediaMarkt or Microspot.

You should then compare mobile plans and prepaid offers based on your individual needs and select the cheapest match. Depending on the phone you want and your telecom habits, you can save more than 1000 Swiss francs by combining the best deals on phones from electronics retailers with the best mobile service deals.

User profiles used for the analysis

For the analysis, calculated the total costs of both phones and mobile service spread over two years of phone use based on different user profiles. The costs of the phone, the mobile plan, use-based incidental fees and one-time SIM activation fees are all accounted for. Calculations are based on the assumption that both the phone and the plan are purchased online. Only the costs of local phone use within Switzerland are accounted for.

The three user profiles used in the analysis are:

  • Low-use. This user profile is based on 5 phone calls (with an average duration of 2 minutes each) and 200 megabytes of mobile data per month.
  • Average-use. This user profile is based on 30 phone calls (with an average duration of 3 minutes each) and 2 gigabytes of mobile data per month.
  • High-use. This user profile is based on intensive phone call and mobile data use which requires a flat fee to keep costs in check.

Which telecom company has the best smartphone deal?

For the analysis, selected 30 different phone makes which are offered by at least two of the big mobile service providers Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt. The comparison accounts for the total cost of the devices and accompanying mobile plans over 24 months.

The results show that Salt is the cheapest option for 15 different phone models, for the average-use and high-use profiles. Sunrise is the cheapest option for 13 phones (average-use) or 11 phones (high-use). Swisscom is the cheapest option for 3 phone makes. For the low-use profile, Swisscom has the cheapest bundled phone and plan deals for 20 of the 30 phone models, Sunrise is the cheapest for 9 phones and Salt is the cheapest for 1 phone.

You can click these links to view the results as interactive graphics based on the low-use, average-use or high-use profiles.

For some models, differences in costs are just a couple of francs, or even null. For others, differences between the prices charged by different telecom companies can be as high as hundreds of francs for all three user profiles.

Phone pricing based on mobile plans

Mobile service providers advertise smartphone deals which are only available in combination with mobile plans. In the past, it was common for telecom companies to charge different prices for the same phone depending on which plan it was sold with.

Only Salt still uses that system in all cases. Swisscom (with the exception of special promotions) and Sunrise now charge fixed prices for phones regardless of which plan they are purchased with. Sunrise made the move to fixed phone price-tags in 2014, and Swisscom adopted this approach in early 2019.

Phone installment plans

Swisscom and Sunrise provide the option of paying off phones in installments. Salt stated that customers can pay off phones purchased in stores using installments in some cases, but was unable to provide details as this information is confidential.

Phone installment plans are advantageous to consumers who cannot afford to buy the phone they want outright or prefer not to. The markups in prices which mobile service providers charge in comparison to those charged by electronics retailers can be looked at as fees paid for the convenience of installment plans. “Buying phones separately from a budget online dealer and getting the cheapest mobile plan is always the cheaper option,” states Beyeler.

What do existing customers pay?

The general consensus is that Swiss telecom companies typically neglect existing customers in favor of onboarding new customers when it comes to offering special promotions and deals. To find out whether that also holds true for phone purchases as well, made inquiries into phone offers for existing customers. Swisscom and Sunrise now use identical phone pricing for new and existing customers. Swisscom previously added a 40-franc markup to phone prices for existing customers, but did away with this practice in early 2019. According to Swisscom, it now offers existing customers personalized offers rather than following a standard rule.

Swisscom phone and mobile plan bundles

Swisscom is running a promotion until January 12, 2020, with many smartphone models on offer with discounts of between 10 and 500 francs. But these discounts only apply in combination with a 24-month subscription to Swisscom’s inOne Mobile go or inOne Mobile premium plans.

But even with the high discounts, getting a Swisscom mobile plan separately and buying a phone from an electronics retailer still works out cheaper in almost every case. Bundled deals from Swisscom – taking the current promotional discounts into account – are only cheaper in two of the analyzed cases. The Galaxy Note 10 (256 gigabytes) bundle works out 20 francs cheaper than buying the phone and plan separately for the high-use profile thanks to the current special promotion. The Samsung Galaxy S10 (128 gigabytes) bundle works out 140 francs cheaper for the high-use profile thanks to the promotion.

The analysis shows that, based on the 3 user profiles, the difference in price between Swisscom’s bundled deals and buying phones and Swisscom plans separately was less than 100 francs for around two-thirds of all included phones. But differences were much large for certain phones. The iPhone XS Max (512 gigabytes), for example, costs around 400 francs less when purchased from an electronics retailer with the Swisscom plan being purchase separately. The iPhone XS (256 gigabytes) costs around 250 francs less.

Savings potential is much higher when prepaid offers as well as brands and telecom service providers which use the Swisscom network are accounted for. You can save hundreds of francs compared to getting a bundled Swisscom offer by buying the phone from an electronics retailer and then subscribing to the cheapest mobile service offered by one of the service providers which uses the Swisscom network. Over a 24-month term, you can save between 520 and 950 francs by doing this.

Sunrise phone and mobile plan bundles

There are a few phones which are cheaper at Sunrise than at online electronics retailers. For most phones however, phone-plan bundles from Sunrise are up to 100 francs more expensive than buying the phone from a dealer and getting a Sunrise plan. For some devices, the difference in price is more than 100 francs. The price difference is biggest for the iPhone XS Max (512 gigabytes) from Apple, at 277 francs.

Price differences are much bigger when prepaid offers as well as telecom services providers and brands which use the Sunrise network are accounted for. In this case, bundled sunrise deals can cost hundreds of francs more than getting the most affordable mobile service on the Sunrise network and buying the phone separately.

Salt phone and mobile plan bundles

Salt charges different prices for the same phone depending on which mobile plan it is bundled with. The higher the monthly mobile plan fee, the cheaper the bundled phone is. The biggest discount currently applies to the iPhone 11 Pro Max (256 gigabytes) in combination with either the Swiss, Europe or World plans and a 24-month term. At 744.50 francs, the price tag for the phone when purchased with these plans is far below the 1489-franc market price.

On average, purchasing a phone as part of a Salt bundle adds 10 francs per month to the plan’s fee. In many cases, the markups on plan fees for bundled phones are much higher. The reason for that is that Salt regularly runs promotional offers and these promotions typically only apply to stand-alone plans and not to bundle phone-and-plan offers. The difference between getting a bundled phone and buying the phone separately from a Salt plan can be as high as 58 francs per month. Over 24 months, the difference can total up to 1392 francs.

The analysis shows that, for the analyzed user-profiles, Salt bundled deals work out more expensive than separate phone and Salt plan purchases for all phones.

On average (median), users matching the high-use profile pay 580 francs more for a Salt bundle. Average-use users pay 491 francs more and low-use users pay 411 francs more for a bundled phone-and-plan from Salt compared to getting a Salt plan and mobile phone separately.

When the most affordable offers which run on the Salt network – including prepaid offers and offers from third-party brands – are accounted for, it is clear that getting a Salt bundle is not the cheapest solution. The average (median) savings potential is 580 francs for the high-use profile, 561 francs for the average-use profile and 411 francs for the low-use profile.

Note: Salt changes its phone pricing often. Depending on the bundled plan, the price charged for the same device can rise or fall by up to 300 francs week on week.

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Expert Ralf Beyeler
Ralf Beyeler is the telecom expert at and also covers other areas of personal finance.