iPhone 4 tariffs compared

All of the UK mobile operators have now announced their iPhone 4 pay-monthly tariffs and most tech web sites seem to have posted something about which is the best deal. Many are mistakenly assuming that the lowest monthly payment or lowest up-front price is the best value though, so I thought I’d analyse the tariffs in a little more detail.

The myriad of different deals makes a direct comparison between network operators difficult, so I’ve compiled a chart that puts up-front costs and total contract costs for each operator next to each other. The whole thing is available in Google Documents.

It’s not easy to say what the “best” deal is based on such a table, since that depends on how much money you want to pay up-front and how many free minutes you want. And not everyone is free to pick and choose their network, of course.

What’s interesting, however, is the section of the table that works out what the monthly payments are for each deal is if you subtract Apple’s iPhone price from the total cost of the contract. In other words, this is equivalent to how much you’re paying each month for the privilege of using an iPhone 4 that you’d bought off-contract  – not unlike PAYG, I guess.

Here, the Tesco deal comes out way, way ahead of the rest. Its cheapest £20/month tariff is equivalent to buying an iPhone 4 16GB (£499) and then paying just £8 a month to use it, with 250 free minutes and unlimited text messages. And, of course, it’s a 12 month contract, so you’re free to upgrade to the iPhone 5 next year.

By comparison, the cheapest of the other deals comes from 3, where you’ll pay the equivalent of £13 a month for the same iPhone 4G 16GB, with 500 free minutes and 5000 texts. That’s £5 a month more than Tesco, for a contract that’s twice as long.

The difference between these two deals is the up-front loading, of course, and while Tesco charges £349 for the iPhone 4 16GB on its £20/month tariff, 3 charges a mere £99 on its cheapest £30/month tariff. Still, you’ll end up paying £819 (iPhone included) to 3 over the course of 3’s 24-month contract — total payments to Tesco over its 12-month contract amount to just £589.

Here are the links to the individual iPhone 4 operators’ pages:

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