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O2 UK Offer Network-First 48 Month Contract Option with Handsets

Tuesday, Jan 23rd, 2024 (4:09 pm) - Score 13,360

Mobile operator O2 (Virgin Media) last week became the first operator to launch a 48-month contract option for customers who take one of the latest Samsung Galaxy S24 smartphones alongside a mobile plan, which on the surface might appear to break Ofcom’s contract limit of 24-months. But as you’d expect, it’s not that simple.

Excessively long consumer contract terms of more than 24-months are effectively banned in the UK by Ofcom, as they tie you into one package for an unreasonably lengthy period of time. But the regulator makes clear that some contracts for mobile handsets can be longer than 24-months, but if this is the case, the contract for the handset should be separate from the contract for the airtime (i.e. an airtime plan can’t go above 24 months).

NOTE: Previously, the longest device plan was a maximum of up to 36-months.

Naturally, this is O2 (VMO2), which has a long history of offering flexibility on their Custom Plans and Plus Plans for mobile users. The new 48-month option is no different. For example, if you take the Samsung S24 (256GB) and unlimited data plan bundle (inc. calls, texts, inclusive EU roaming and more) for £49.83 per month (£16.83 Device + £33.00 Airtime) plus £30 upfront, then only the device (phone) side of that plan will actually run for 48-months (i.e. the device cost is spread across 48 months) and the airtime side gets unlinked after 24-months.

According to O2’s terms, this means that if you are within the first 24 months of your Device Plan, you will have to pay off your Device Plan in full if you decide to end your Airtime Plan. But after 24-months you can choose to keep your Airtime and Device Plans without changing anything, Cancel your Airtime Plan and keep paying off your Device Plan instalments or, Cancel your Airtime Plan and pay off your Device Plan in full.

At this point O2 makes a bit of a song and dance about also offering plans with flexible terms that go down to just 3 months, but spreading the cost of both the handset and the airtime charge across such a short period would push our example plan to the dizzy heights of £302.28 a month (£269.28 Device + £33.00 Airtime). At that point it would be better to wait a few months and save money by purchasing the handset separately on a discount (in fact this is often the best approach, if you can afford it).

O2 adds that the above price represents an introductory offer (i.e. “Pre-order the 256GB model for the price of the 128GB“) and the above price split suggests they’re pricing the 256GB S24 model at £807.84 a pop. But we were able to find the same version (unlocked) for £799 via various online stores because it’s a general offer (not unique to O2) until 30th January 2024. However, if you like to split the cost across an interest-free device plan, then O2’s deal is still pretty handy, even if 48-months (4 years!) does seem a bit too.. long. We can’t help but wonder how long it’ll be before we see 5 and 6 year deals.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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29 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    I thought 36 months was pushing it but 48 month should never be allowed. However, if it brings down the cost and splits the plan from the phone then that might be fine for some. It’s also good for customers who have no interest in moving MNOs. I’ve been with Three for a very long time so if a 36month plan is worth it then maybe. But it’s usually cheaper to just buy the phone, if one can.

  2. Avatar photo jason999 says:

    £1952 min plus price increases over the next two years they must be having a laugh. And let’s be honest, even if you’re not going to stay with 02 after the two-year contract, you’re going to need an air time plan to go with your phone.

  3. Avatar photo Sam Perry says:

    Yeah but none of this matters with switch up

  4. Avatar photo john says:

    The device cost is £837.83 as the upfront fee is part of the device plan.

  5. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    and if network capacity issues are bad in your area or multiple areas to travel to, or they have network wide outages happening more often, it’s a right song and dance to try and terminate the contract without being stung; basically you are stuck. And the yearly price increases to boot….

    1. Avatar photo No name says:

      You can just upgrade from a fixed length contract to 30 day one then port out.

      I did it to get out of a 24 month contract when the network fell apart in my area. Going from £15 to £30 for one month was better than paying 17 months of £15.

      Not sure how that works on device plans though as I was Sim only.

  6. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

    If you’re upgrading your phone as part of a contract then you’re doing it wrong.

    Too many companies try to lure you into credit commitments.

    Don’t fall for it.

    Buy what you can afford, and commit only to those things that you have to. Mobile packages are not one of those things. Month by month exist for a reason.

    1. Avatar photo Zakir says:

      Thats why I only buy devices outright i stick with Honor only there mid range devices as its way cheaper and you get an high end mid range specs

  7. Avatar photo Will Hood says:

    And what phone is going to last 4 years? The battery will be useless after a year or two…. Phones are just ridiculously expensive. I’m on O2 but thinking of going back to Giffgaff. O2’s airtime plans aren’t priced that well, and they seem to cost more, the more expensive the device….

    1. Avatar photo Nul says:

      I had an XS Max since September 2018 that I only replaced as I wanted 5G. Battery health is 85%, if you’re having issues making a phone last 5 years then you’re the problem, not it.

    2. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      @Nul thats rubbish. I had a Samsung M51 I was super careful with. Never really let it drop below 20% and only charged to 85% (It has 7000Mah battery so had that as a usable option). Battery ballooned on me suddenly when it was just over two years old. By the time I got it to recycling a week later to dispose of it screen was bending and back had almost popped off. Batteries can just go even if you are careful.

    3. Avatar photo Hill Wood says:

      I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your mobiles so far but in my recent mobiles
      Xperia Compact, Pixel4: Sony’s battery was still lasting about a full day after 3.5 years whilst Pixel lasted 3 years and then mainboard failed.

  8. Avatar photo MattBoothDev says:

    If the handset contract is interest free then I don’t think this is a big deal. If it’s carrying an interest rate then it’s too much and shouldn’t be allowed.

    1. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      I usually find there’s two things you need to consider:
      1) mid contract price rises on airtime
      2) TCO

      I’m not anti-credit, but IMO you still need to do even just some guesstimates to make sure that there is decent enough value compared to alternatives e.g. buying from Samsung (on credit or outright) and going SIMO.

  9. Avatar photo Bg Dave says:

    Buy handset outright and go SIM only on the contract every time for me.

    1. Avatar photo Hill Wood says:

      Same for me. If someone can’t afford to buy it even on instalments then should consider going cheaper option.

  10. Avatar photo GG says:

    £33 a month for unlimited data? They offered me that via work for £8.

  11. Avatar photo JP says:

    I think this is starting to get silly, but reallity is this is the device loan plans thats being extended, not really the airtime.

    When I with O2 2022 I ended up falling out with them and the ombudsman as they finished the investigation on the basis that everytime the device failed to connection (data or call) the network name O2-UK was still showing connected with signal in the corner and basically they don’t guarentee fault free services, just availability,

    The reallity however was that at anytime I was allowed to pay the Device Plan off and leave without any termination charges for the tariff plan as they are only linked with the device plan while its in payback stages.

    The reality of 4 year phone contracts is just to keep the customer coming back with their old phone and trading in to clear the plan after so long into contractual payments.

    REALITY is phones are too expensive and even more expensive than they need to be, I mean from advertsing I’ve seen around for the new Samsung flagships, they are purely selling a device on software developments now, I don’t really see any physical features that haven’t already been knocking around for a good 2/3 years now.

    I would say people are spending too much money on big brands because a vanity/trends, an example of this is I’ve just returned a Pixel 6a selling at around £300 at the moment, and brought a Motorola with better specs (-5G) for £89 brand new…. the motorola seems the better phone BTW.

    But it seems drug addicts get a better regulation on the junk than phone addicts do these days.

    1. Avatar photo Ben says:

      Out of interest what model Motorola?

    2. Avatar photo JP says:

      Moto G32

  12. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Presumably the 48 month device plan term means that devices are expected to last at least that long, and if a device developed a fault in that time then the customer could claim under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Maybe, but try explaining any UK consumer rights regulations to VMO2’s diabolical offshore customer service slaves, see how far that gets you…..

  13. Avatar photo KIddo says:

    hope they include insurance, ive not had a phone that doesnt start to play up after the 2/3 year mark.

  14. Avatar photo Jim says:

    Absolutely no demand for 48 month contracts. If you need to take a 48 month deal to get the phone you want then you can’t afford that particular phone. Choose another phone

    The lunatics running the asylum

  15. Avatar photo Darren says:

    The Company is a farse, why are they manipulating people into long finacial fixed contracts 48 months is 4 years and you are tied in for that time, the two Companies need redress and investigating, its tedious when you try to come out of a contract and they say there are extortional high exit fees, since this Company has shared out with other Companies with manipulation enticing tactics the service has fell, if you do not have the service or it stops you get nothing for that thry say it was temporary( but it stopped) no service no pay if I did not pay for service you would cut me off, I had a service have a service with this Company for broadband, I was due to renew I could not get through to cancel my renew however the very day after I got through and they said I was over my cooling off period I said I still wish to cancel down and emphasised on my frustration getting through to them, they said to cancel down at that time would incure a £500 exit fee they did not help me out in the least, I feel that companies that do this are holding people to ransomn and more complaints should be made it rubbish service many interuption outages and they do little to help Customers..

  16. Avatar photo Darren KP says:

    Ofcom UK….

    Why do you not set any service contract to a maximum 12 months Limit..

    Stop the stupidity with these so call contracts that have clauses..

    No wonder people are in a mess and do not know what to do…

    Maybe no additional exit fees after the first 3 months….


  17. Avatar photo Moss says:

    This is a fat trap, no one should sign up to that

  18. Avatar photo Say no to o2 says:

    Awful network.
    Stay away.
    Say no to o2.

Comments are closed

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