All of my phones so far I have bought in conjunction with a contract. As my phones tend to be top-range and quite new, I often have to pay 100-200 € on top of that. Way back this was the way to go. Now times have changed. My own contract is too cheap and you don't get nice deals when you just renew it.
I would have considered getting a new contract but unfortunately I'm travelling in different countries too much, a few months in England, a few months in Germany. Very inconvenient.
I still went to Vodafone (in Germany that's the best connection and I like their service after 10 years of experience in my family). My Dad has a contract without a phone and pays 80 € per month. He said he is fine to renew his contract but Vodafone says they won't give him the Samsung Galaxy SII I chose, because he doesn't want an internet flat. He wouldn't use it and for me it would be worthless. That's really frustrating.
Then I tried with my mothers contract but it's the same deal. We played through all the possibilities but it's no good.
I even started looking at new contracts for many networks. Vodafone has nice student offers but either I have to pay about 250-300€ extra still or my contract will be about 30€ a month. I know I can get cheaper contracts without a phone, with internet and texts for only 10 € or tops 15€, so as a student who isn't even in the country most times anything more is unmanagable.
Christmas offers from T-Mobile and Vodafone offer the phone much cheaper now, for 65 € for example, but only with their overpriced tariffs. 3 years ago I could call Vodafone and landline for free for only 20€. Now, 30€ for a contract is probably reasonable including internet if it would include the phone completely. Groupon.de has such an offer for the SII. Only 19.95€ for the phone. But that is only Telecom and I really don't want to switch. Also I have to pay at least another 10 pounds in England for the network services that I will want to have there too.
A friend told me nowawdays you just go to Amazon or MediaMarkt to buy the phone seperately. So I guess I will have to do that now and get a cheap contract. I calculated it all together and buying the SII for about 400 is still cheaper with a 10€ contract than paying 30€ for 24 months (which I can't even use completely yet).
Endline: a smartphone makes you very mobile but the network industry doesn't provide good international, flexible offers yet.