iPhone 5 goes on sale: Here's the cheapest way to get one in the UK

Apple has fired the starting gun on retail sales of the iPhone 5, the sixth version of the iOS-based handset. Find out where it will cost you the least, in our rundown of the plans out there.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

The iPhone 5 has now been released, and you're free to go and pick one up — but what's the cheapest way to go about buying one?

For the purposes of this, I've only looked at deals (whether contract or SIM-only PAYG options) that offer at least 1GB of data usage per month. If you're not using at least around that amount, I'd question why you're shelling out for an iPhone in the first place.

Three store with iPhone 5
The iPhone went on sale on Friday, with Three offering one of the cheapest ways of getting it. Image: Ben Woods

If you're happy to stump up some cash up front, well, all of it — £529 in the UK, that's easily the least expensive way to get up and running in the long term. That's for the 16GB version, the lowest-priced version of the iPhone 5 available.

Of course, putting up the cash up front means that you'll need to arrange a SIM card: but if you really want it on Friday, the first day on sale, then your choice of networks is somewhat limited.

READ THIS: Brother and sister duo nabs first iPhone 5 in the world

The absolute cheapest way would be with GiffGaff, which typically does a £10 month PAYG deal with 1GB of data. But the network hasn't confirmed when it will offer the device, or the nano-SIM required. So if you want it today, no dice.

It's a similar story for T-Mobile: the network told me on Thursday that it had not confirmed its PAYG plans for the iPhone 5, or when it would have a nano-SIM available.

In fact, at the time of writing, only Three and O2 could confirm that new or existing customers can walk into a store and pick up the nano-SIM required for the iPhone 5.

READ THIS: Singapore still hungry for iPhone, but buzz lacking

Of those two, the most economical is Three's 'Ultimate Internet SIM 200 1 Month' plan, which provides unlimited data, 200 minutes and 5,000 texts for £12.90 per month. If you want to bump that up to 600 minutes but stay on a one-month rolling contract, it will cost £18.90.

So, £529 for the phone, and £12.90 per month for 12 months (£154.80), which makes a total cost of ownership for one year £683.80 on this Three PAYG plan.

Monthly plans

By comparison, the least expensive 12-month contract with the handset is with Tesco Mobile. This deal will cost £30 per month, and require a £400 outlay on the handset, making the total cost of ownership for a year £760.

iPhone 5 launch in London
iPhone 5 fans get high-fives from Apple staff at the store in Regent Street, London. Image: Ben Woods

If you really don't want to shell out anything at all for the handset and are happy with a monthly commitment, all the major UK networks are offering the device for free on 24-month contracts of around £44 to £46. The exception is T-Mobile, where the cheapest up-front device cost is £19 with a subscription payment of £61 per month.

Taking the lowest of those free handset contract deals (which is Three at £44), one year of ownership will cost £528 — making the total cost of the deal £1,056. The equivalent PAYG Three route would cost a total of £838.60.

For the record, the 'Full Monty' T-Mobile option — where the handset costs 'just' £19 up front — would cost £1,464 across the full term of the contract. That's one of the more-expensive ways of getting a nearly-free iPhone 5 in the UK that we've come across — but there could be more out there. Have you seen any bargains? Let me know in the comments.

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