It's not often that I feel compelled to extrue the virtues of a brand like O2, but in this case I have made an exception. It's not so much talk about the iPhone 4, but more about how O2 have handled the anticipation of the upgrade.
I have been an O2 customer for a few years now, after moving away from Orange. After moving house it transpired that Orange did not have decent coverage for this particular area, so it was a required change. O2 quickly settled in and for the most part, was a brand that I did not have to deal with, they just sat in the background doing their thing.
The only reminders that I would get were the monthly bills, but no problems or issues of significance. When there was the odd occasion to call O2, their customer service was always very prompt, no needless hanging on the line on hold.
Fast forward to last week
With the anticipated launch of the Apple 4, I was in two minds to grab the upgrade. I was in a fortunate position with my existing 3G contract, which had expired just one month earlier, leaving me out of contract and free to look around for a good deal.
At this time there was talk of O2 making some undesirable changes to it's various tariff's, one of which was the removal of their unlimited plan. O2 posted their prices before many other carriers, I guess to try and get their finger in the door, since they lost exclusive dealership of the iPhone.
What made me stick with O2
In my eyes, O2 clearly had a game plan with the iPhone and it was clear they were making up for loosing this exclusive dealer deal with Apple. Not content to just sit around, they pro-actively pre-launched the Apple 4.
First positive from O2
With O2 you could register online, to show your interest in the upgrade. This meant not actually pre-ordering it, but just putting yourself on their contact list, so you would be notified of any new developments.
Second positive from O2
O2 made their pricing available so early on, so you could easily see what the deal was. The table they had online was clear and had all the price alternatives to hand.
Third positive from O2
O2 introduced an 'early upgrade' offer for existing contract customers, allowing them to pay a set fee to upgrade whilst still tied into a contract. Admittedly not cheap, around £20 per month you had left with the contract. But regardless, it was still a sound marketing move.
At this point I had registered my interest and was reading with interest the total nightmare that American customers had just trying to pre-order. No such nightmare with O2. O2 kept the momentum going, giving you confidence that they were incontrol. Any questions you had, they had the answers on their website.
Fast forward to Monday prior to launch day
Forth positive from O2
On the Monday I received a mailing card from O2. On this card was stuck the iPhone micro sim.
This was awesome.
Even though I had paid no money, I had not entered into any contract, I had not pre-0rdered the actual phone, all I had done was just show interest. O2 sent out the micro sims in advance. Knowing full well you may not even yet buy the iPhone, or if you did buy it, not buy it from O2. This move from O2 was clever.
Sixth positive from O2
On Tuesday I then received a call from O2. This call was made because I had shown interest in upgrading my iPhone 3. Their message was simple, we can send you out the iPhone 4G for delivery on Thursday, launch day. No queuing, no travelling into Brighton, no waiting around.
Brilliant. Talk about making it so easy. They may have lost exclusive dealership of the iPhone, but they were not going to hang around sulking. The O2 rep was casual in tone, not at all pushy. Just simply asking if I was interested. From this moment I was hooked in. We talked about plans, the tarfiffs, the best deal, the cost of the handset etc.
Seventh positive from O2
Because my existing tariff was higher than I needed, this meant I could reduce my monthly payments, but meant of course that the handset price would go up.
This was the moment when I was thinking if it was a worthwhile purchase. After all, the 3G is not exactly a dinosaur and has served me very well in the time I have had it, nearly 19 months. I would have to fork out around £200 for the handset on a £40 per month tariff. I did not have £200 to so easily get rid off, so I explained this to the O2 rep.
His reply? "Oh, well you can recycle your old 3G handset and get back up to £235." I was shocked, not at the concept of reycling, but at the prices they were willing to pay. For a mint condition iPhone 3GS, one could expect to get back around £235, for a mint condition 3G about £185. The price would drop depending on the general condition of the phone of course, so this goes to show it is worth looking after. From new I had installed a thin screen protector, both back and front. So this stoped most scratches. So I could realistically get around £160-£185 for my iPhone 3G.
So this was the clincher. Now the price of the handset becomes much more affordable, I would only need to find about £50 or so. I was dubious, so did check with him any limitations or small print that might make the recycle deal a lemon, but nothing came to light
The only decisuon now was which model, the 16Gb or the 32Gb. Opted for the 32Gb due to the improvements in the camera and the HD video, I could imagine filling up a lot of that memory quite quickly, not to mention my iTunes library.
Eighth positive from O2
Early Thursday morning, O2 text me the various courier details for DHL. Which meant I was able to roughly gauge the time of delivery, handy when you don't want to be hanging around for a courier. It's a small thing, but it made a big difference to my day.
At 11.30 am, DHL turned up with the iPhone 4, whilst I assume many people are still in line, as I write this waiting to get theirs.
This whole experience, the week leading up to the iPhone being launched has made me stick with O2. I was at times looking around at other options like Vodaphone. I did consider going into Brighton and waiting in line at the Apple store, but frankly I was not that desperate.
O2 made the whole process so very easy. This is a great example of a large brand getting it very right. In my opinion, they out did Apple on this front. By offering all these little perks, they have shown how companies can get it right. The clincher however was the recycle deal, without that I would probably not have entered into another 18 month contract.
The one downside is the insurance, £15 per month for the 4. This is pretty steep. I do understand that products like this are high risk items when it comes to theft, but even so, £15 per month on top of your contract is just painful. The O2 rep did explain the reasons, and I do understand. I wonder how many people will end up not taking the insurance. I decided not to, but instead I will filter £10 a month into a iPhone insurance fund, just incase. If after the 18 months I have been claim free, then I have not lost anything.
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