/ Technology

Upgrading to 4G could leave you confused and out of pocket

Chalkboard with 4G phone

When I saw EE’s pricey 4G deals I wasn’t particularly surprised – new tech without competition is always expensive. But I didn’t expect other networks to promise high charges before their 4G has even launched.

Vodafone is offering a ‘4G phone promise’, telling iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Note II customers that they’ll get 70% off their contract when they upgrade to 4G.

This sounds like a fantastic deal, but when you look a little closer it might not be so great.

Vodafone’s 4G phone promise

Basically, if Vodafone launches 4G while you’re still in your current contract, the provider will let you upgrade to 4G early, ‘knocking off’ 70% from your remaining contract charges. Sounds good so far.

However, this means you’ll not only be paying for a whole new 4G contract, you’ll also be paying 30% for the remainder of your previous contract.

Let’s imagine you took out a 24 month contract with Vodafone. Say Vodafone’s 600 package at £33 a month. If you wanted to upgrade to 4G while there’s still 18 months remaining on your contract, you’d have to pay 18 months at £9.90 (70% off) on top of a whole new 4G contract. That’s an extra £178 on top of a full price 4G contract. You also have to hand your phone back in good condition to get a new 4G capable one.

Quite why anyone would want to use this deal is beyond me. It would make much more sense to get a Sim-only deal until 4G becomes available and then upgrade, without having to pay off the remainder of your contract (at a discounted price).

O2’s 4G phone promise

Yet, Vodafone isn’t the only one. O2 has its own ‘4G phone promise’, which it appears to be promoting to new iPhone 5 customers. O2 will also let you upgrade to 4G early as soon as it’s available, as long as you pay off the remainder of your contract.

However, rather than giving you ‘70% off’, O2 will ‘chip in’ with a 25% discount. Unlike Vodafone, you won’t need to hand back your iPhone 5. So you could sell it on, although with 75% of a contract left to pay off you’re unlikely to break even. To me both deals look as bad as each other, and potentially could leave customers confused and out of pocket.

What do you think about these 4G promises by providers that don’t yet have 4G? Impressed? I’m not.


We’re going to be talking about this on the Tech podcast later this week: http://www.which.co.uk/podcasts/ Anyone tempted by these offers?

ronnie says:
19 November 2012

4g o2 cant even provide 3g in my area i dont get my contract cheaper

I’m fed up with the practice of locking customers into long contracts. I’d like to see the norm become unsubsidised SIM-free handsets and SIM-only contracts, as happens in some other countries, mostly where the consumerist debt culture doesn’t exist. The current offers such as those you quote for 4G serve only to distort competition by confusing consumers. As you correctly suggest, SIM-only is nearly always the best option.

I bought my iPhone 5 32GB from Apple for £599 and I’m on an Orange SIM-only contract for £9/month. I’m waiting for Orange to offer 4G at a reasonable SIM-only price. However, they’ll only do this after they’ve lured in customers through confusing and expensive bundled tariffs.

Is it possible to buy a phone today that will be able to use the 4G networks from O2 Vodafone etc when they come on stream later in 2013?