14/01/2014 05:38 GMT | Updated 15/03/2014 05:59 GMT

Navigating Mobile Phone Upgrades

My first mobile phone was pay as you go. As was my second and third and, in fact, every single one I owned, up until my first semester at university. In my first month at uni, after lots of calling home, I decided I would be better off joining the pay monthly crowd, and going on contract. Joining was easy, and I enjoyed two years of texting and calling without breaking the bank. My next upgrade came along, I changed networks, but everything was still easy enough. The same can be said for the upgrade after that, my last one, two years ago - I got the phone I wanted, on the plan I wanted, and all was well. Maybe because I've never upgraded through my network.

This time though? Oh no. Not easy. Since my network provider helpfully reminded me, a couple of weeks ago, that my contract was up for renewal or upgrade, I have been frantically searching thousands of deals, in order to find the best. And I have yet to succeed. There are various websites that can help, ones that whittle down your results, based on network, price, phone model, and all matter of other categories, and yet I still end up with hundreds of options. It would all be much simpler if network providers offered competitive upgrade options, instead of what seems, to many, to amount to a downgrade. Certainly all the offers from my network involve phones that are inferior to the one I already have, hence this debacle of looking elsewhere.

In addition to these less than appealing offers, I have been dissuaded from upgrading through my network thanks to the treatment a family member received when they recently upgraded through the same provider. It seems the best way to get a decent deal from your network is to tell them you are leaving, and begin the tedious task of playing phone tag around the retention department, apparently the only people in the company who have the authority to offer you any form of discount. Once you've spent hours, over numerous days, discussing why the phones they advertise online are not actually available anymore and wearing them down to the very lowest price they can possibly do, and how much you believe that is up to you, for the other phone you want, you will have, undoubtedly, ended up with the initial deal you tried to bargain for days earlier. Holding the belief that the nightmare has ended, surely now all there is to do is await the arrival of your shiny new phone?

Wrong! The calamity that is this upgrade adventure is yet to be finished. Next, the network in question sends a phone, rather speedily I must admit, however, it was the wrong colour, and they had failed to include a micro SIM card, meaning that it was unusable, and needed sending back to the network at the customers own cost (though with the promise of remuneration later). The return of the phone was again negotiated through a multiple hour's long phone call, during which my family member had the pleasure of speaking to multiple departments once more. Typical.

So as we wait for this upgrade saga to resolve itself, it is needless to say, many people, including myself, don't have the time or the patience to deal with the possibility of such an experience when they upgrade. This is probably not the norm, many people upgrade through their network with no trouble at all, but this tale, and the fact that I have never been offered a good deal with any network when it comes to upgrades, has cemented my decision to go it alone, yet again.

It is not certain that seeking to upgrade elsewhere is trouble proof, but the experiences I have had heretofore certainly point to a more positive outcome. The best way I have found to avoid a luckless network upgrade, and an interminable amount of time with a phone glued to my ear nagging said network, is to email the few websites I have narrowed my search down to, about the specifics of each appealing deal; what is included in the price, does it come with all the extra accessories I will need, can I keep my number, and so on. Once I have this information, I too shall need to speak to my networks retention department, more's the pity, just in case there is the tiniest possibility that they can offer me a better deal. Wish me luck and keep an eye on the news, hell may freeze over this week.