With people making fewer phone calls, the big mobile companies are losing money and desperately need new subscribers. Pop quiz, network hotshot -- what do you do? If you're Orange, you give younglings free stuff. If you're O2, you reward loyal pay as you go customers with new deal Pay & Go Go Go.
The oxygenated operator, perhaps worried everyone is going to jump ship after last week's shambles, is offering a range of bonuses to customers who stick around. Top up £10 every month and you'll get 75 minutes, 500 texts and 100MB of data free. Up that to £20 and you get 250 minutes, 2,500 texts and 250MB of data.
Here's where the bonuses kick in -- after three months on either of these schemes you double all your minutes, texts and data. After six months you get 10 per cent back, so an extra £1 or £2 of credit. And after nine months your texts become unlimited.
So after nine months of paying £10, you'd have 150 minutes, unlimited texts, 200MB of data and an extra quid of credit. How does that stack up against the competition?
£10 per month pay as you go deals
Not too bad, especially compared to the other big networks. On Orange, £10 gets you 400 texts and a pathetic 100MB of data, or 100 minutes and 100 texts. I know teenagers who get through that in a day.
T-Mobile gives you unlimited texts, 100 minutes or free BBM for your tenner per month. Another fiver bags you 500MB of data.
Vodafone has an incredibly irritating and opaque points system called Freebee Rewardz. Save up points and you can choose from loads of rewards, such as free data for a month, or entering a prize draw. You get 10 points per £1 you top up (up to £15), and 4,000 points (that's £400, maths fans) bags you a 'free' Vodafone Smart, for example. A phone worth £40.
That's not all -- for your rewardz to even count, you have to put a code from a text message into the Vodafone site. Ugh.
Pitched against that rabble, O2 looks like great value. But Three offers 100 minutes, 3,000 texts and 500MB of data for £10, or 300 minutes, 3,000 texts and unlimited data for £15. That's a bit better, but bear in mind Three doesn't exactly have a sparkling reputation when it comes to customer service or network coverage.
GiffGaff, which runs on O2's network, offers 250 minutes, unlimited
texts and unlimited data. It's the best deal around on paper, but
GiffGaff doesn't have any on-call support staff. If you have a problem,
there's a forum and, er, that's it. This has led to delays in people activating SIMs, among other difficulties.
So if you're looking to spend a tenner a month on your phone and don't want to be tied to a contract, O2's new deal is the best of the major networks, but not as good as Three or GiffGaff's. If you don't think you'll miss having someone on the other end of the phone if something goes wrong, I'd give GiffGaff a go. My colleague Rich Trenholm swears by it.
And avoid those damn beez like, well, angry bees. Have you seen a better deal elsewhere? Share the wealth down in the comments, or on our free and easy Facebook page.
- For loads more information and offers, see our mobile deals section.