A new mobile tariff has been unveiled by O2 with the aim of enabling its customers to upgrade phones when they choose.
Currently, most users get locked into two-year contracts with the same handset, in which time many new devices are launched onto the market. If users wish to upgrade, the usual process is to pay off the remaining cost of their contracts, leaving those seeking new smartphones with a large bill.
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O2 Refresh splits the cost of the phone from the airtime, meaning if a customer wants to upgrade their device, they only have to pay off the remainder of the phone, rather than the full contract price. Then they are able to pick a new phone and start the process again.
There will be options to choose how much to pay each month towards the smartphone, but O2 said it would not release these details until the tariff is officially launched on Tuesday 16 April. There will also be the option to pay a certain amount upfront to reduce the monthly bill.
Airtime costs have been revealed though, with the choice of paying £12 per month for 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 750MB of data; £17 for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data; or £22 for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of data.
The contracts can work out pricey. The example O2 gave was a user getting an HTC One, paying £49.99 up front, £17 per month for airtime and choosing to pay £20 towards the handset price. This would add up to a monthly payment of £37, but as the spokesperson said, this would be the cost of the same 24-month contract anyway, without the option of upgrading when the user saw fit.
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Feilim Mackle, sales and service director at O2 parent Telefónica UK, said: “Increasingly, our customers are telling us that they don’t want to be tied to the same phone for two years and, with 4G coming to O2 this summer, we want to make it easier for our customers to benefit from the latest technology.
“For the first time in the UK, O2 Refresh will make it possible to get a new phone part way through a pay monthly contract, at any time – quickly, easily and cost-effectively.”
The handsets available at launch on O2 Refresh will be the Samsung Galaxy S3, S3 Mini, Note 2 and Ativ S; the Blackberry Bold 9900 and Z10; the HTC 8X and One; the Sony Xperia T and Z; the iPhone 4, 4S and 5; the Nokia Lumia 820, and the LG Nexus 4.
It will also be available for the Blackberry Q10 and Samsung Galaxy S4 when they go on sale later this year.