Gasoline, diesel or the pseudo-electric plug-in hybrids – how many of them would roll as company cars on Germany’s roads if the tax rules were not so generously designed to be industry-friendly is an interesting question. Smartphones are priced in a different category, but the prettiest and fastest among them also tear quite holes in the budgets of the young target group in particular. Most of them are keen on owning a top smartphone that is as new as possible, but they are also often short of money.

Not everyone is lucky enough – sometimes dubious – to be provided with a service smartphone. So you make do with what you could call the equivalent of leasing in the automotive industry: cell phone contracts in which the new smartphone is priced in. Month after month, therefore, not only the fee for calling and surfing is due, but also the rate for the device.


Anyone who has ever tried to find a contract that meets all personal needs as far as possible, but does not cost the world, will quickly notice: The tariff offer of the network operators is a jungle in which the undergrowth of the small print proliferates. Many people have already lost themselves in the thicket and signed contracts that were neither cheap nor really met their needs.

Or over-fulfilled. The latter even happens quite often, according to a survey by the comparison portal Verivox. Behind this is the desire for expensive smartphones that you cannot or do not want to buy yourself. Therefore, many succumb to the lure of one-euro offers. The expensive cell phone, which can cost more than 1000 euros in stores, is apparently given away.

The offers are not necessarily unfair

But of course the providers get their money back from the users – with contracts that already include the price for the device. It doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive than buying the phone yourself and choosing a contract without a device. An example: A one-euro contract for the latest iPhone, the 12 series, costs just over 60 euros per month, of which around 40 euros are added for the smartphone, based on Apple’s list price. That leaves around 20 euros for the mobile phone contract.


This is not an unfair offer, because the contract includes – still rather unusual in the mobile communications sector – 120 gigabytes of monthly data volume. The question, however, is whether users really need it. Most of them have a landline connection with WiFi in their own four walls, so mobile data usage is limited to the times when you are on the go.

Of course, if you watch an entire soccer game on your mobile device via a wireless connection, you don’t have to complain about the data volume being melted away, nor do series junkies, and social networks also gnaw – often enough in the background – on your data account. There will be people who come close to at least 120 gigabytes of mobile data consumption per month, but for most this is completely excessive. The average mobile consumption is: around three gigabytes.

So if such an average consumer concludes the 120 gigabyte contract, he is on the safe side and hardly has to worry that the data tap will just trickle down towards the end of the month. But it would actually make far more sense to buy the cell phone and sign a much cheaper contract with six gigabytes – it would still have a data buffer equivalent to an average monthly consumption.


24 months is too long

The average data volume in mobile phone contracts is currently 23 gigabytes, as Verivox has determined. Now it is problematic to only calculate with average values, because there are heavy users who consume a lot of data volume, as well as people who have a smartphone but hardly use it or only use it for phone calls.

Nevertheless, it can be assumed that many cell phone users have contracts that they actually do not need. And that means that they are usually set for another 24 months. It could help to reduce the duration of the contract to twelve months, as the Federal Minister of Justice proposed, in other countries it has long been available. And of course everyone should see to it that they only book what is needed.

Speaking of need: The mobile phone manufacturers always trumpet so loudly for their latest devices that it almost seems as if the previous year’s models were just electronic waste. More and more people are realizing that this is not the case. Many keep their cell phones longer than before because so much doesn’t improve from one generation to the next. Only after two or three generations does a clear difference become noticeable.


If you have to watch your money and still need or want a pretty good cell phone, it’s best to take a look at last year’s models. They’re still very good, but cost a lot less. Or you buy the smartphone used – if the previous owner paid attention to it, you hardly notice anything about the device. The relevant retailers usually also allow the smartphones to be returned if they are not satisfied. With this, and with a contract that reflects personal usage habits well, you can save a lot without having to sacrifice a lot.