There aren’t many pastimes more mind-numblingly dull than researching mobile phone tariffs. So many pages and pages of data and terms and conditions, and asterisks that lead seemingly nowhere – ugh. With the iPhone 4 launch coming up next week, we’ve delved into the recently-released network deals from O2, Orange, Tesco and Vodafone to see what’s what and save you the trouble.
12 month contracts
Tesco Mobile is currently the only network selling the iPhone 4 on a 12 month contract and the only network offering £20 contracts. Unlimited texts and 1GB of data comes with all Tesco Mobile iPhone deals as standard. On the lowest Tesco Mobile 12 month deal the iPhone 4 16GB costs £349. The cheapest O2 deal by contrast (£30, 18 months) sees the same 16GB iPhone 4 costing £209.
18 month contracts
An 18 month contract puts your next upgrade slap bang in the middle of Apple’s product cycle; you’ll be six months late for the iPhone 4GS (or whatever the next possibly-minor update is) and six months too early for iPhone 5.
But don’t let that put you off – there’s something psychologically distressing about signing your telephonic life away for two whole years.
The cheapest overall cost is offered by O2 – you can get an iPhone 4 16GB model for a total lifetime cost of £749; that’s assuming you don’t go over 100 measly minutes a month and can cope with 500MB of data (as an aside, I’ve had my iPhone 3G for almost a year and a half, and used 1.2GB in that whole time).
We’d probably be more inclined to go for something with more minutes and unlimited texts; Vodafone’s £35/month deal looks good, with a lower outlay for the handset itself than O2 and Orange’s equivalents.
Correction: We mistakenly put the wrong tariffs in the O2 32GB 18 month column. We have updated the table to display the correct figures and would like to apologise for the error.
24 month contracts
If you’re happy to sign your soul away for two whole years, then a 24-month contract can work out better value overall. It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that you’ll be in prime position to upgrade in June 2012, when Apple will possibly (probably?) release its next major handset update.
Over the course of a year, you’ll end up paying less than you would on an 18-month contract, on average. But monthly tariffs do end up about the same.
Vodafone is the most generous with its data, which will be a prime concern for some. However, it is a little stingier with the minutes and texts; beware the £25/month tariffs if you’re likely to spend more than 75min/month on the phone – O2’s £25 tariff is much the same with a 100min cap.
Interestingly, no one’s keen on giving the handset away for free; only the most expensive tariffs (£60+) come with a free £16GB model, and not a single 32GB deal will get you a handset for nothing – even if you agree to pay Orange £75/month for two whole years, you’ll still have to stump up £29 for the handset itself.
Update: Three to the rescue! You can get an iPhone 4 16GB for free on a £45/month tariff, which seems pretty reasonable to us – if you’re prepared to tie yourself in for two whole years. That’s a lifetime cost of £1,080 – about £60 more expensive than the £40 contract, so if you can afford to stump up the £59 for the handset, it might be worth doing that instead.
I know it’s dull, but you really need to work out what you want out of a deal in order to get the best one for you – there’ll be no haggling on the iPhone 4 for quite some time, not with demand so insanely high.
Look at how many minutes and texts you’re using at the moment, as well as your data. You’re already going to be paying through the nose for the handset, so you don’t want to get stung for going over your limits every month. A little research now will really pay off in the long run.
We’ve had the big three networks’ deals, now we want to see what T-Mobile and Three will come out with; traditionally the lower-cost network options. Will they be able to compete with the big boys on pricing this time around? We’re hoping so.
We’ll also be taking a look into SIM-only and pay-as-you-go deals over the next few days, so keep an eye out if you’re after a more flexible solution.