Want an iPhone 4S? Switch to Vodafone says o2!

o2 iPhone 4S Sold OutHere’s an interesting one. Our Pete tried to get an iPhone 4S today. Even though the local store had stock, they wouldn’t let him upgrade. Here’s Pete to explain more.

To upgrade, or not to upgrade… that was my question. Looking at the spec of the iPhone 4S, there seemed to be no need to rush out and upgrade, and so, I’d decided not to go and queue for the 4S – but might upgrade when the rush had died down. That having been said, we’ve received a few emails asking for us to review the 4S for the next show, plus tweets from tech chums playing with Siri and the new camera, making me twitchy to upgrade.

Casually checking the o2 site to see how sales were going on Saturday, I did a stock check, and found that a store a couple of miles away from the town I was visiting… had stock. I thought it might be worth a look, so strolled past.

At the o2 store, there was no queue, but a sign saying “No stock”. I popped in anyway, to be told that they did actually have stock after a delivery this morning. So, I thought I’d upgrade.

Please may I upgrade, sir?

Sitting down with the “o2 Guru” at the Basildon store, my details were fed into the computer. I’m one month away from an upgrade. “No problem – I’ll pay the extra month to get out of my contract”. That’s where the problem lies, apparently.

o2 appears to have changed policy on its “Fast Track”, meaning that I couldn’t buy myself out of the contract. Neither could I take out a new contract now, and let the old one lapse – At least, not without losing my number.

o2 Fast Track

It seems that if you’re on a tariff of less than £40 a month, o2 don’t value you enough to let you “fast track” out of a contract. The store manager at o2 wasn’t interested in trying to sort anything out, and the floor staff, while sympathetic, couldn’t do anything. They suggested I call o2 Customer Services…

o2 iPhone 4 Silver Upgrade

o2's online upgrade notice - Wait 5 weeks, or go to Vodafone, apparently

Shock 1 – Switch to Vodafone, says o2

A call to o2 Customer Services seemed fairly encouraging, but ultimately fruitless. I could switch to a £41 contract, then Fast Track, but I’d have to pay an extra £6 a month to get any data with that contract (more on that in a mo).

So, I’d go from £36 to £47 a month to be able to get an iPhone 4S. Even if I wanted to go ahead with this craziness, it would take anywhere between 12 hours and my next billing cycle for the tariff change to go through on the o2 system before the in-store team could see the change and flog me a phone.

“Are there any other options?” No, it seems. Then I worked it out… “Can I cancel my contract, and move networks?” Oh yes, that’s fine. Seems I’d have to pay a month’s fee to get out of my contract, but then I’d be free to take out a new (and cheaper) contract, and shift my number to another network operator.

The helpful chap at o2 Customer Services, and then the team instore, confirmed that the only way I’d be able to get an iPhone 4S would be to call for a PAC (the code needed to move to a new network), and shift to another provider. o2 agreed that my shifting to the Vodafone network was the way to go, and did nothing to try to keep me.

Shock 2 – No data on new tariffs

Something else that’s changed in o2’s iPhone policy. When you upgrade to a new iPhone, you have to take out a new contract – and the new contracts don’t include data. Our £35 a month contract with 500MB of data, would convert to a £36 a month contract with no data. A 500MB bolt-on is an extra £6 a month.

As you can’t use an iPhone without data, that’ll now be a £42 a month tariff. A little sneaky, o2?

So long and thanks o2

So, being loyal to o2 for nearly 15 years counts for nowt, and rather than taking my money to fast-track upgrade, tying me into a new long contract, and taking my cash for a new iShiny – I’m off to Vodafone. I can get a phone faster, and be paying less as their tariffs include data (unlike o2’s). Thanks a bucket o2!

We’re assuming that o2 is relying on customer’s lethary, and hoping that customers won’t mind paying more to stay with them, as the alternative is hard work. Which it isn’t.

To switch, call o2, free, on 202, and follow the “want to leave o2” menu option. Ask for a PAC (Port Authorisation Code), then pop off to your local Vodafone store (or online at Vodafone or Carphone Warehouse)

Audio Update

If you’re interested, young Pete and Carl recorded some audio on the subject:


FrequencyCast Off The Record – o2’s iPhone 4S Upgrade Policy

Play Show button Download show now button


  • Simon

    Thts why I bought from Apple while on O2, I’m on £35 a month.

    • We did look at that as an option… problem seemed to be the price when we looked:

      Apple: SIM-only price is £599, plus your £35 a month.
      Vodafone: £36 a month, handset is £199.

      £300 more expensive to take that route, unless we’re missing something…

  • Paul

    Ya the same happened to me but I had waited outside O2 shop for 2 and a half hours just for them to tell me I was under £40.00 and could not fast track but I’ve got 3 months left on my contract

  • Not sure what’s going on here. At the start you said ‘looking at the spec of the iPhone 4S, there seems to be no need to rush out and upgrade’. So why didn’t you just wait the 1 month, i.e. just 4 weeks, for your upgrade without breaking the contract! Is the 4S that much better than the iPhone 4 that you had to change networks to get it straight away? Is it really that important to have Apple shiny without a 4 week wait?

  • Michael Johnson

    The Reception on Vodafone is poor verses O2

  • Hi TechandLife. Yes, I agree… it’s probably worth some clarification. Looking at the spec of the iPhone 4S, the team agreed that there’s no compelling reason for most people to need to rush out and upgrade, so we weren’t planning to queue for one on the day of release, or do what we did with the iPhone 4, and do a “special day one hands-on review”.

    We have had a number of mails from listeners asking for our views on the phone though, and as our radio shows are driven by feedback from the audience, we’ve agreed that we need to try to at least include some feedback on the 4S in our next show.

    Seeing an opportunity to get a 4S without queuing, Pete thought he’d get one, so we could get some hands-on time before the next show. He was a little surprised at:

    a) o2 has changed policy to prevent existing users from a fast track upgrade

    b) that you have to move to a new tariff, and one that doesn’t include data

    c) that o2 advised him that the only option was to switch to another network operator.

    Sure – He could wait six weeks, then upgrade (on a more expensive contract), but the alternative is to get a phone now, and be on a cheaper contract. So, should we a) wait and pay more, or b) switch, get a phone now, pay less and review the 4S in the next show?

  • Michael – doesn’t that depend on where you are?

  • In my experience with O2 you actually have to request the PAC before they seriously consider being competitive. I had this problem when I wanted to switch to the iPhone 4 a while ago – they were charging a fortune! I explained that I had found a cheaper contract with Three, in my case, and they agreed that it was a cracking deal and apologised, but said they couldn’t compete with it. I hence bought the contract. However, when I came to asking for my PAC, I was given a much more competitive offer from them and asked if I’d consider. I’d already bought the contract by this point, and anyway their more competitive offer, though better, still wasn’t anywhere near as good as the Three contract, but still. Had they have told me about it in the first place, I might have considered staying out of loyalty.

  • Well that’s brilliant. Just tried to call O2 on 202 from my mobile to get a PAC code, and just got an automated message saying they couldn’t take my call – whatsoever! – and advising me to look at the O2 website before cutting me off altogether. Oh Cheers O2! You won’t even let me leave!

  • There’s some comment on this subject, including some defense of o2’s position on this matter, here: http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?p=54109184

  • Hi guys,

    There’s some interesting discussion of o2’s handling of the iPhone 4S rollout, plus some comments putting the argument in defence of o2, here: http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?p=54109184

    Any thoughts? Please let us know!

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