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The best iPhone 4S deals

iPhone 4S photo by Ethan.zhang99Good news for technology fans as the iPhone 4S is the first model you can buy on contract with no up-front cost as soon as it’s launched.

It's the must-have gadget this autumn, but what’s the difference between this model and its predecessor? What’s the most cost effective way of buying?

We’ve waded through the mountains of offers both in-store and online to bring you the best deals.

If you don’t fancy an iPhone, we’ve also got a round-up of other smartphone tips and deals.

What’s the big deal?

There are several key differences between the current iPhone 4 and the new 4S.

The processor has been upgraded to a dual-core A5 model which means the phone’s applications will run faster and more smoothly.

It also includes a new 8 megapixel (mp) camera, able to shoot full high-definition video. This is a step up from the 5mp offering on the iPhone 4.

Finally, the new iPhone features Apple’s Siri voice control technology. Siri is an “intelligent assistant” that performs tasks for you – from setting your alarm, to telling you the weather forecast – simply by speaking to it.

What’s the cost?

Choosing a contract with a free handset will inevitably mean you pay more in the long-run.

So, if you can afford it, either buy the handset outright and grab a budget SIM-only deal (you may have to trim your SIM to fit the iPhone for this). Or you can pay an amount upfront towards the cost of the phone on a shorter monthly contract.

Dominic Baliszewski of mobilechoices.co.uk says: “Your current network may offer you a loyalty discount if you upgrade to the iPhone 4S with them, instead of paying the headline tariff from a new provider.”

When you’re shopping for a mobile contract you need to consider how much, if anything, you’re willing to pay upfront for the handset and how long you want the contract to last for.

Dominic says: “Figure out your needs in terms of minutes, text and data allowance. Also bear in mind the contract length.”

The best way to make sure you’re getting the most suitable contract deal is to contact your current network and check what you currently use each month.

Mobile deals are notoriously fast-changing and complicated, but we’ve rounded up some of the current best offers for paying monthly on 12-, 18-, and 24-month contracts, both with and without a partial upfront cost for the handset*.

Cheapest 12-month contract

With free handset: No deals.

Without free handset: Tesco Mobile with 250 minutes, 5000 texts and 1000mb mobile internet for £335 upfront and £25 monthly. Total cost over contract period: £635.

Cheapest 18-month contract

With free handset: Vodafone with 1200 minutes, 3000 texts and 750mb mobile internet for £51 monthly. Total cost over contract period: £918.

Without free handset: Vodafone with 100 minutes, 500 texts  and 500mb mobile internet for £239 upfront and £31 monthly. Total cost over contract period: £797.

Cheapest 24-month contract

With free handset: Vodafone with 900 minutes, 3000 texts and 750mb mobile internet for £41 monthly. Total cost over contract period: £984.

Without free handset: Orange with 50 minutes, 50 texts and 500mb mobile internet for £310 upfront and £20 monthly. Total cost over contract period: £790 (You get very few minutes and texts here, if you spend a little more you can find other deals with a far greater allowance.)

Is there another way?

If the expense of the new iPhone is too much, or if you just want an alternative, there are plenty of other smartphones on the market that perform just as well as their Apple-branded counterpart.

Samsung Galaxy s2

Samsung’s dual-core Android-based offering to the high-end smartphone table has been doing what the iPhone 4S can do since May this year and is considered by many to be the best handset on the market.

Best deal today: 3 with 500 minutes, 5000 texts and 1000mb mobile internet for £26 monthly for 24 months and free handset. Total cost: £624.

Blackberry Bold 9900

Blackberry’s best-selling Bold model retains the iconic Blackberry styling and QWERTY keyboard but sports a new high-resolution touch screen and faster engine.

Best deal today: Tesco Mobile with 750 minutes, 5000 texts and 500mb mobile internet for £30 monthly for 24 months and free handset. Total cost: £720.

HTC Sensation

HTC has a reputation for reliable and robust Android-based devices. The Sensation is the dual-core offering and it’s received high praise for its impressive user interface and 8mp camera.

Best deal today: o2 with 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 500mb mobile internet for £21.50 monthly for 24 months and free handset. Total cost: £516.

*All prices correct as of 18 October and based on the 16GB model. Photo by Ethan.zhang99