O2 UK – Mobile Phone Network Contract Review

O2 have the biggest market share of mobile phone subscribers in the UK with 28%. I’ve been a customer of theirs for almost two cycles which will be three years by the time my contract runs out in early July. It’s been my least favourite mobile phone contract supplier thus far and I’m hoping to leave them as I find the service they provide extremely underwhelming.

The main reasons why I don’t favour them over my previous mobile phone network is as follows:

1. O2 Mobile phone signal is poor, where I live and where I’m moving to next. This happens to be the lovely City of Oxford and some of the trendiest streets have NO signal at all which isn’t good when you’re out with friends.

2. They are highly inflexible, I called them up a few months ago asking for an early upgrade and they were not interested, I threatened them with leaving and their attitude was “fine, but you’ll have to buy yourself out of your contract”.

3. They have several “reward” levels which enable you to upgrade early and get other benefits depending on your level of spend. However, it’s worthless and I wouldn’t fall into the TRAP of thinking that it’s of any value whatsoever if I were you. I was right on the cusp of being eligible for a three month early upgrade and decided to spend a little more so I could get an iPhone 4 as I wanted a new phone sooner rather than later. The problem is as follows: They only review the “reward” levels periodically, so to move from one level to another, you need to wait for a review of your account which could take six months! Most mobile phone contracts are between one and two years and that means you’ll likely to be eligible for an upgrade by the time they review your account any way. Pffft – rip off. Also, it’s not clear that roaming charges do not count towards your spend, well executed lack of transparency there O2. The membership “levels” are: Blue –> Silver –> Gold –> Platinum and to move up  the reward levels you need to spend money, a lot of it too when you get more minutes than you’ll ever need for free. It’s nearly impossible to spend the money to push you over the cut-off point between “reward tiers” with normal usage these days. I tried to increase my spend so I could upgrade early by using my phone overseas more that I usually do. All I got was a big fat bill and the middle finger, I still qualify for a one month early upgrade but they can stick their contract up their arse. I’m leaving a.s.a.p.

4. O2 roll the contract on at your FULL rate unless you cancel (one months notice) which isn’t exactly ethical since you’ve already paid off your phone and they’re collecting virtually pure profit from you while keeping their mouths shut about an upgrade. I think most networks do this but it’s gross anyway.

5. O2 are expensive! When I enquired about leaving and moving to a Simcard only contract as I wait for the new iPhone 5 to arrive, they quoted me £26 per month which is over £10 more expensive than near identical packages from other networks. I currently pay £35 per month AND I get an iPhone every eighteen months. The Sim only contract they offered me was day-light robbery! I’d rather go into contract and get a free phone than pay them extortionate monthly fees for nothing. Beware: “Simcard only” deals are terrible value for money, especially on O2. Three (3) network seem to offer Sim only deals that smash the other networks in terms of cost, however, I’m not sure about their coverage :( I would love to support the underdog though.

During my foray into attempting to get an early upgrade from O2, I’ve learnt that I don’t use much of my Internet allocation a month even though I’m a prolific Internet user, while I connect to my router at home I never use more than 160MB a month and I’m ALWAYS checking my phone when I’m out of the house. I found it really surprising and I need to check how many megabytes I use when I am overseas as they seems to clock up faster than a fuel pump gauge.

The market share here in the UK is divided by the mobile phone networks as follows: O2 have the largest mobile phone subscriber base with 28% of the market, followed by Vodafone and Orange with 23% each, T-Mobile has 19% and Three (3)  has by far the smallest share at 7% percent.

I specifically moved over from T-Mobile to O2 for an iPhone when O2 won the exclusive iPhone contract, I’m hoping to go back to T-Mobile though. Their service is great, their signal has always been good where I live and they tried really hard not to get me to leave by offering me almost outrageously huge incentives to stay. These were Satellite Navigation gadgets for my car and highly favourable prices on mobile phone contracts. They are also significantly less expensive than 02, as far as I can tell.

My current iPhone is on it’s last legs, it’s crashy and the battery that runs flat in about five minutes. O2 could’ve had my business for another year and a half IF they had upgraded me two months earlier than I was entitled to. However, I’ve relented and bought an iPhone 4 with my own money as an interim mobile phone while I wait for my contract with 02 to expire and the iPhone 5 to come out. I couldn’t bear the thought of being locked into another long contract with O2 and their arrogant “take it or leave it” service.

Thanks but no thanks O2, I think I’ll leave it (and your network). The signal sucks, it’s expensive, the “rewards” are deceptive and they don’t seem to be bothered about doing a deal to keep me on-board.

2 thoughts on “O2 UK – Mobile Phone Network Contract Review

  1. Andrew says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your summary. I’m in exactly the same boat and have had the exact same experience, except for signal coverage as thankfully it’s very good in Milton Keynes.

    If they simply offered me an upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S II now, they could have my business for another 24 months. As it stands, I’ll be transferring to Three as of August. I can get the phone for £20 on their One plan via Buymobilephones.net for £35 a month, giving me 2000 mins, 5000 texts and unlimited data which you can even tether a laptop / tablet / other phone to at no extra charge. For the same price on O2 (well, they charge £36 a month, but that extra £1 is essentially the same over 24 months as the £20 handset cost on Three) you get 1400 mins less, unlimited texts (though I’d never get close to the 5000 Three offer anyhow!) and 1GB of data which can’t be tethered.

    I’m always amazed by how willing they are to just let you move networks. Poor business sense there.

    Anyway, thanks for an interesting article!

  2. admin says:

    I would think twice before you move to the 3 Network Andrew, I did some research whilst writing the article and their coverage is the worst out the the big players, by a country mile. Also, they are very aggressive when trying to exit a contract and you’re basically stuck with them even if you can’t use your phone. They do offer amazing deals with phones and minutes, but I think their coverage sucks big time and it’s not worth it. It seems O2, Vodafone and Orange are hated equally. I think it’s wise if you test which signal is strongest at your home and then try to get the most competitive package out there at the time. I don’t believe there is a mobile phone network that stands head and shoulders above the others. However, don’t get saddled with a phone that is next to useless as the coverage stinks! You’ll hate yourself for the next 24 months ;)

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