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O2 is one of the largest mobile networks in the UK, originally founded as Cellnet in 1985 and delivering mobile services back when phones were the size of bricks.
A lot has changed since O2 first started up - devices are sleeker, we use our phones more to stream videos than to call our friends, and O2 now runs 3G and 4G networks. It’s currently the UK’s second largest mobile network provider, behind EE, with a 26% market share.
At a glance
|The good:||The bad:|
|Widespread and reliable UK coverage||Mobile deals are at the more expensive end of the scale|
|Wide variety of mobile deals to choose from||Expensive 30-day SIM only deals|
|Free access to over 7,000 WiFi hotspots across the UK||4G download speeds lag behind those offered by rival networks|
|All deals come with unlimited texts|
|Highly-rated customer service|
|O2 Priority has a wide range of perks including first access to events tickets|
|Choose a deal that suits you with O2 Custom Plans|
|Bills are clear and transparent thanks to O2 Refresh|
|Get discounts for each family member added to your plan|
|Wide range of bolt-ons allow you to top up your data, calls, or texts|
|Get paid for old handsets with O2 Recycle|
Device Choice and Contract Flexibility – O2 Refresh
O2 offers a menu of mobile devices from nearly all manufacturers, but Apple and Samsung predominate - O2 seems to know what customers want. You can purchase these handsets on 24-month contracts, paying them off in instalments. You can also pay for your device up front and plug in an O2 SIM card. 12 to 24-month pay monthly mobile contracts are available alongside pay-as-you-go SIMs.
Need a handset but want to avoid the commitment of a 24-month contract? If you buy certain high-end phones on tariffs with 20GB or more of data, you qualify for O2 Refresh, which divides your monthly bill into the device and airtime (talk minutes, texts, and mobile data). After 12 months, you’re then eligible to trade in your current handset, without having to fully pay it off.
Perks and Extras – O2 Priority
Mobile customers can also get access to O2 Priority, which allows them to snag tickets at O2 venues 48 hours before they go on sale - essential if you’re trying to get good seats for a hot concert. You can also jump the queues at those events and head to the O2 lounge and take three friends on other networks with you (so they can hastily switch their phone contracts to O2 too). The O2 Priority app also offers a host of regular offers that customers can use, like £5 mains at Pizza Express available daily.
O2 4G Speed and Network Coverage
O2 offers data allowances of up to 60GB per month, but you may find all the video you can stream in that allowance moves a little slower than it does on other major UK networks. O2’s 4G network is the slowest in Britain. With average download speeds of 15.8 Megabits per second (Mbps), it’s half as slow as EE’s 4G. But O2’s 4G network is the second most reliable, after EE and just ahead of Vodafone. Customers are able to connect to it 84% of the time and avoid using slower 3G.
Despite the slower speeds, 88% of O2 customers report being satisfied with its reception and signal strength, equal to the number satisfied with EE’s and above the industry average of 87%. Overall, customers report 92% satisfaction with O2’s service, leaving it tied for fourth in Ofcom’s latest report on the customer service of the seven largest mobile providers. Ofcom also found that just 3 out of 100,000 pay-monthly customers complained about O2 in the third quarter of 2018, the last period for which data is available. That put O2 in the better half of mobile phone providers.
O2 isn’t the cheapest provider - in fact, you might find better deals with one of the mobile virtual networks (MVNOs) that use its network - but it is a respectable choice, especially if you attend a lot of concerts and events at O2 venues.
What phones can I get with O2?
As one of the Big Four network providers, O2 has one of the widest range of smartphones on offer. This includes the most popular models from Apple’s iPhone range as well as a whole host of Samsung Galaxy handsets. You can also choose from a number of high-end smartphones from smaller manufacturers, including Google, Sony, Nokia, and OnePlus.