O2 has launched a new breed of split-contracts dubbed Custom Plans, which it’s claimed will give customers “complete control over how and when they pay for their device” and the freedom to design their own contracts to suit their needs.
So how does it all work? Is it a good deal? Are there any catches or caveats you need to be aware of? And what aspects of O2 Custom Plans can you customise? Read on and we’ll explain everything.
Keen to find out more about O2? From coverage to customer benefits, here's what you need to know.
So what’s the big idea behind O2 Custom Plans?
O2 bills Custom Plans as “a new way of paying for your devices” and is touting them as the first contracts that customers can customise to suit their needs. The upshot is that you don’t have to select from pre-fab, standard contracts already offered online by O2 and can create an entirely bespoke one.
Head to O2’s site and you’ll find an interactive Custom Plan creator, which is at the crux of its new-fangled offer for customers. Using this tool you can design pretty much every aspect from your contract.
All Custom Plans include unlimited calls and texts, but you can choose as much or as little data as you like. The minimum is 1GB per month and the upper limit is 50GB per month.
But more importantly the Custom Plan tool allows you set how long you’d like to pay off your phone (on an interest-free repayment plan) and how much you want to pay upfront.
Feeling flush? You could, for the sake of example, pay a few hundred pounds upfront, then pay off the whole phone within as little as three months.
Got a bit of cash flow problem? If you like, you can choose to pay nothing upfront and extend the repayment period for the phone up to 36 months. With no interest to pay on that either.
Can I change my allowances a la O2 Flexible Plans?
You can. If you decide that the mix of calls, data and texts you chose is no longer working for you, you can change your allowances with 30 days’ notice.
Do the contracts include O2 benefits?
Custom Plans include all the standard O2 benefits, such as membership of its Priority rewards, freebies and priority-tickets scheme. And you get use of O2’s 15,000 Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re out and about.
Of course, that’s maybe not quite as enticing as some other networks’ incentives.
Not least the choice of a subscription to Amazon Prime Video, Spotify Premium, a NOW TV Entertainment Pass, or Sky Sports Mobile with Vodafone Entertainment contracts. Or the option of a sub to the BT Sport mobile app and its trove of live Premier League games when you sign up to BT Mobile.
But O2’s sweeteners aren’t bad freebies by anyone’s reckoning. We’re always on board with its ongoing offer of free coffee from Caffe Nero on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, for instance.
What are other networks offering that’s comparable?
Right now, O2 is the only network that affords customers the breadth of customisation options and flexibility that you get with Custom Plans.
Of course, there are flexible options from other networks, though. Not least EE’s tellingly titled Flex plans, which let you change your monthly allowances from month to month. And call time on your contract whenever you want.
However, unlike O2 Custom Plans these are solely SIM-only contracts.
Sky Mobile also allows you to change your tariff every month on its Swap contracts. But once again, how and when you pay for your phone is much more restricted.
So are Custom Plans good value?
For this we'll hand over to uSwitch Tech Mobiles Expert and spokesperson Christine Torlay.
She told us: "On the face of it, O2 should be applauded for attempting to bring extra choice to customers with these à la carte ‘custom plans.’
“The latest smartphones are expensive so having the ability to decide how to split repayments, as well as choosing how much they'd like to pay upfront offers genuine flexibility to consumers. Customers will rightly appreciate the 0% APR which ensures they won’t be charged extra, whether they’re paying over 36 or 3 months
“However, it is important to consider monthly airtime costs (minutes, texts and data), as a plan will need to be selected to go alongside the handset payment and these are often not as competitive as a SIM-only deal.
“This means that it is very possible that buying a new handset outright and pairing it with a SIM-only deal will work out considerably cheaper in the long run.
“It’s also worth finding out how good O2 coverage is in your area before signing up to paying for a contract potentially for as long as three years.
“With so many handsets available, there are many different deals on offer for those looking to get a new phone. It’s worth checking all the competition, either yourself or through a comparison site, to see what best suits your needs.”
Are the phones locked to O2? What if I decide I want to pay up and leave?
All phones sold with O2 Custom Plans are unlocked. So if you decided you wanted out, you could choose to pay off your phone after the three-month minimum term. Then you’d be completely free to take your phone and your business elsewhere.
What about if I wanted to upgrade early to a new phone with Refresh?
You’re still eligible to do that if you’re on a Custom Plan. All you have to do is pay off your phone (and if you like trade-in your existing handset to help offset the cost) via O2’s Refresh scheme. You’re then free to ink a new handset contract for the gleaming, new phone you’ve been coveting.