More and more iPhone 6 buyers are wising up to the savings on offer for buying a new handset outright and signing up for a cost-effective SIM only tariff, data suggests, in what could in time mark the onset of a sea change in consumers' buying habits.
Last week, UK networks announced prices for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on pay monthly contracts, prompting mobs of would-be owners to descend on carriers' sites in a bid to be first in line to own one.
But with few networks offering standout free-phone handset contracts and monthly asking prices standing at over £50 per month for the highest-end models, it seems that increasing numbers of consumers are shunning time-honoured pay-monthly contracts and opting for more wallet-friendly approach of buying the handset unlocked from Apple and then shopping around for a SIM only tariff.
That's borne out by data showing that on September 12th when pre-orders for Apple’s phones went live and contract pricing was confirmed, traffic on uSwitch Tech's SIM only comparison pages was more than double the previous Friday.
Since then, visitors using the site to search for SIM only deals have remained 50% higher, with giffgaff and Three emerging as the biggest beneficiaries of iPhone buyers’ changing patterns of behaviour.
By way of comprison, the cheapest free-phone iPhone 6 16GB pay monthly contract on uSwitch Tech is £43.50 per month, which comes to a total outlay of £1044 over the course of the two-year contract.
That gets you unlimited texts and minutes and 2GB of data per month on Vodafone.
Opt to buy the same phone outright and you’ll pay £539 upfront. Were you then to sign up for a SIM only deal with Virgin Media with identical allowances as the Vodafone contract, your total outlay for the phone and the contract would stand at £899. That’s a saving of just shy of £150.
It’s important to note that pay-monthly contracts remain the most popular way to buy handsets. This is because they allow consumers to spread the cost of the handset over two years and free buyers from the need to find hundreds of pounds as a lump sum.
However, we think there's definitely something new afoot here. Whether the pattern is something that's exclusive to the iPhone, though, remains to be seen.