With Vodafone's entry into the iPhone market, users now have a wide choice of iPhone tariffs to choose from but which is the best for you?
Initially, Vodafone appears to take a comfortable middle ground compared to its competitors. Taking a mid-range iPhone, the 16GB 3GS, as an example, and focusing on each supplier's cheapest tariff options over a two-year contract, Vodafone asks you to pay a lower upfront charge than Tescos at £149 (compared to £320) but a higher charge than O2 (around £87) and Orange (around £125). While Vodafone's cheapest tariff (£30 per month) is higher than Tescos (at £20/month), the same as Orange's but lower than O2 (£35/month). On a raw cost basis, that includes the one-off upfront cost, Tescos is cheapest at £33/month, Orange next at £35/month, Vodafone follows at £36/month and O2 lingers at around £38.50/month.
However, when you examine the attendant free monthly minutes and texts, the picture changes. Each free minute/text maintains its own monetary value, of course, and will off-set your monthly tariff charge. On average, around 20p per call minute and 10p per text. Add that lot in and what do you get? Vodafone is top by some margin with £360 per month, O2 is next adding £170 of call value, Tescos gives you £60 and Orange just £55.
On data terms? Vodafone 'only' provides 1GB of data transfer per month. However, don't see this as a hardship. The other companies may offer unlimited data transfers but they run a 'fair use' policy. This is a grey area but, if you start shifting over 1GB of data per month, which is deemed a lot, with Tescos, Orange and O2 then you may incur polite queries to reign in your data use. Orange, for example, sees 750MB/month as the maximum despite its claim to offer unlimited data.
Quickly looking at the cheapest 18 month contract tariffs from Vodafone, Orange and O2 (Tesco's only offers 12 and 24 month contracts), Vodafone's £45/month average tariff (including upfront cost) is £5 more than O2 and Orange's average tariff but the Vodafone value for money figure is much greater: £420 as opposed to just £60 from Orange and £27.50 via O2.
The bottom line? Tescos remains the cheapest in pure cost terms but the best overall value, when the entire tariff is taken into consideration, has to be Vodafone - doubling the call/text value over the previous best 24 month contract offer via O2 and upping it by a factor of seven over 18 months. O2 now struggles to compete and Orange sits at the bottom of the overall value for money pack and floats aimlessly around the other categories and needs to rethink its iPhone tariff strategy.
Finally, if you're dumping your landline and are looking for unlimited calls and texts, Tescos still offers the best unlimited offer via its Unlimited Calls & Text tariff at £60/month.