I want to get an iPhone, but now that you can get it from more than one provider, I’m not sure who to sign up with. Please help.
Debbie, via email on 09 February 2010
Hi Debbie, one of the most popular mobile phone handsets in the UK, Apple has sold over two million handsets since the next-generation phone was launched on O2 mobile in 2007, with a further 100,000 handsets sold in the first week from Vodafone mobile.
Now, for the first time, the iPhone has been made available over a number of different networks, with O2, Orange mobile and Vodafone all offering their own iPhone packages.
While this has injected some much-needed competition into the iPhone market, it does mean that you now need to put more thought into buying your new iPhone - thinking about the tariff options, mobile internet allowances and added extras that might be included in your package.
Although the latest iPhone on offer is the 3GS, you can still sign up for one of the cheaper 3G versions if you want to save money on your handset.
However, it is worth investing in the latest 3GS model, which comes with more memory, a faster operating system, a better camera - which also has video recording capabilities - longer battery life and a host of other features.
Even if you’ve settled on an iPhone 3GS, you'll still have to choose how much memory you want. It comes with either 16GB or 32GB and unlike some other phones, you can’t insert an external memory card to boost this - what you buy outright is what you get.
As the original iPhone network provider, O2 had an exclusive deal with Apple until the end of 2009, making it an experienced player in the market.
It offers both pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go iPhone deals, with varying prices depending on what model you want - the 3G version is still available, what size iPhone you choose and how long you want to sign up for.
While O2 doesn’t have a specific mobile data allowance, its fair usage policy prohibits continuous streaming of any audio or video content, Voice over IP internet telephone services, peer-to-peer access and file sharing services, which “adversely impact on the overall customer experience”.
99% of the country is covered by the O2 network, with over 84% being able to access 3G mobile services.
However, with data traffic increasing 20-fold in the 12 months to November 2009, there have been concerns about the strain on O2’s 3G network.
As an O2 customer you can also take advantage of a host of other added benefits, from the Blueroom, which offers freebies and priority ticket sales, to the Bluebook service which backs up your texts, picture messages and contacts for free.
Orange currently has the UK’s biggest 3G network at 93%, giving you access to the fastest speeds across more of the country. Its 2G mobile phone reception covers 99% of the UK. As with O2, it also offers iPhone customers contract deals or pay-as-you-go plans, allowing you to be as flexible with your tariff as you want.
You can also sign up for either the latest 3GS or 3G model, depending on how much you want to spend on your handset.
Contract plans come with “unlimited” mobile internet, subject to a 750MB fair usage policy while pay-as-you-go customers get 250MB a month for the first year.
Orange customers can also take advantage of some great deals, such as its Magic Numbers service, which allows you to make unlimited calls to chosen Magic Numbers as a pay-monthly user, or chat to your Magic Numbers for up to an hour for only 20p if you're a pay-as-you-go customer.
You'll also be able to use Orange Wednesdays codes. As well as offering 2 for 1 cinema tickets to see any of the latest films, you'll also get a meal too, with 2 for 1 pizzas deals at Pizza Express.
Vodafone doesn’t currently offer its 3G or 3GS iPhones on pay-as-you-go tariffs, but it does offer the widest choice of pay-monthly contracts.
Its 3G network covers 81% of the UK, and its 2G coverage, which enables texts and calls, covers 99%.
As a Vodafone iPhone customer you'll also get a 1GB monthly data allowance - enough for 10,000 web pages or over 16 hours of streaming video. If you exceed your allowance you'll be charged an extra £5 for 500MB, but because mobile internet uses less data, very few people even get near this limit.
Like any mobile broadband 3G connection, it makes sense to compare coverage in your area before choosing your provider. Use an online coverage checker, but take into account that you'll still be able to go online even if you're outside of a 3G area - your connection will just be slower.
Some providers, such as O2, also offer free returns within a certain period - something you should definitely look into if you're not sure what the coverage will be like in your area.
All three iPhone providers also offer inclusive wireless hotspot access as part of their packages, allowing you to connect to the internet at faster, more secure speeds.
Your phone should automatically connect to any wifi hotspots that are free for you to use, but double check with your provider in case you need to set up an account first.
Some iPhone customers can even use their phone for “internet tethering”, allowing you to turn your iPhone into a mobile broadband dongle, hooking it up to your laptop to go online with your PC.
O2 customers can sign up to monthly tethering packages, with either a 3GB or 10GB monthly allowance.
For Orange customers, tethering is only available if you're a contract customer and signed up to a tethering bundle or an iPhone tariff that includes tethering minutes.
Vodafone also offers three tethering options, with a 500MB, 1.5GB or 3GB allowance.
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