Buying a contract (also known as pay monthly) phone is usually best if you a medium or heavy user. Contract phones are generally free and the charges for calls and texts are usually lower than pay as you go.
Most contracts are 12, 18 or 24 months. Shorter contracts mean that you can change your phone sooner, but the deals available on longer contracts are better.
Buying a pay as you go (PAYG) phone is usually best if you are a very light user or want to budget for your phone use. PAYG phones are often older and less attractive models.
If you're under 18 you won't be able to buy a contract phone in your own name, so PAYG is your only option unless your parents will buy a contract phone on your behalf.
Contract phones always involve a credit check. If your credit score is marginal you may be asked to pay a deposit. Provided you're sure you'll be able to keep up the monthly payments, paying a deposit is worthwhile as you'll get the benefits of a contract phone and improve your credit score at the same time.
Choosing the right tariff
All the networks offer an abundance of tariffs, but only one or two are really popular. We've picked these out for you. The popular tariffs usually offer a balance of included calls and texts, and include all the best handsets free.
Having chosen an O2 tariff, it is worth checking whether the network offers any extras that are of value. The most common are extra bundled texts and web (for browsing, downloads and email).
Other things to check include:
costs if you exceed the included calls and texts
whether the included calls are restricted to evenings or weekends
whether calls to mobiles on other networks are included or not
Which O2 phone?
Handsets are increasingly fashion statements, but even if your choice is driven by look or feel don't forget the importance of reliability and ease of use. Fashion moves quickly of course, so we won't presume to offer fashion advice!
Mobile phones are increasingly packed with other features, particularly cameras and music players. It has to be said though that they are not yet as good as dedicated digital cameras and music players, so the question is whether they are good enough given the convenience.
Although most people get their handset free, this doesn't mean that all O2 mobile phones cost the same. The more expensive and (usually) best handsets are often only free with more costly tariffs. One way around this is to choose a refurbished phone. Typically these have been returned by another shopper in the 14 day no questions asked return period - so they're pretty much next to new.