Mobile Phone Showdown: US V. UK

by : Ian Ball

Mobile Phones
The mobile phones of both countries are essentially the same. The iPhone is on both sides of The Pond, and the major manufacturers are there, too. Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and Motorola are present and accounted for. Of course the software inside the phones may have slight differences to account for the customs and language of the two countries, but for comparisons sake, there is little or no difference.

Mobile Phone Service
When we get to mobile phone service, the similarities begin to waver. The United Kingdom has a very large Pay-As-You go population. This service option is far less utilized in the United States. In fact, in the US, it's uncommon to find a mobile phone contract for less than two years.

The companies offering these services overlap. T-Mobile is popular in both the United States and the United Kingdom, but many of the other brands in the UK are not present or have only a very small presence in the US. O2, 3 and Orange are certainly not household names in the United States, much like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are virtually unknown in the UK.

Perhaps it is the differences between the service providers that account for the differences in mobile phone service. A typical mobile phone contract in the UK is comprised of a set number of minutes, a set number of text messages, a line rental and some sort of goodie to settle the deal. Most contracts are twelve to eighteen months in length.

In the United States, the typical contract comes with a set number of minutes, an unlimited or very large number of off peak minutes, and the option to add text messages and other goodies. Some plans roll everything together, including texting, but the most common packages require it to be added separately. The standard contract is at least two years.

In the UK, one would be foolish to start a new contract without getting a free phone or even a game system out of the deal. The phones aren't cheap, either. Free mobile phones in the UK are high quality, often high dollar offerings. In the United States a new contract may come with a free phone, but it will certainly not be anywhere near top-of-the-line. Instead, a new contract may come with a deep discount on the better phones.

Those US mobile phone discounts may be in the form of mail-in rebates however. These forms require a bit of effort on the part of the consumer, and even then, the rebate may not ever arrive without his a great deal of persistence. In fact, some are beginning to file lawsuits regarding the delayed or nonpayment of rebates.

The Bottom Line
Overall, it looks as though the UK has the better deal when it comes to mobile phones. The United States may have more carriers, but the contracts and service plans leave something to be desired. The United Kingdom charges a bit more per month, but offers more standard services. And the bonus mobile phone offers in the UK certainly cinch the deal.

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