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There's a new phone company in town and here's what they're offering you

Virgin Media is launching a new mobile phone range with a particular focus on established brands.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson at the launch of Virgin Media back in October.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson at the launch of Virgin Media back in October.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

BACK IN OCTOBER, Virgin Media launched its mobile network as part of its rebranding from UPC. The service was a SIM-only service and was primarily aimed at current customers.

Its latest plan is to expand on that by launching a phone range, consisting of devices from Apple, Samsung, and Sony. According to Virgin Mobile’s head of mobile Ronan McEvoy, the service has between 10,000 to 15,000 subscribers and the aim is to double that figure by the end of the year.

The expanded service will be launching on Thursday (7 July) but what does it bring to the table?

What is being offered?

Currently, Virgin Mobile offers two plans for unlimited (10,000 minutes, 10,000 SMS and 30GB of data when in the country) and 1GB plans costing €25 and €15 a month respectively. If you weren’t a Virgin Media customer, you would have to pay an extra €5 on top of it.

To entice its broadband and TV customers to move over, it’s continuing its €10 a month offer for the first four months of its unlimited plan. After that, it changes to the standard price of €25.

The difference is you have the cost of a phone to add to the overall bill. For example, if you bought an iPhone 6 for €190, your monthly pricing be €25 for the phone and €25 for the SIM plan until your contract ends.

Once you finish your contract, your bill will only include the SIM plan unless you upgrade to a newer phone.

The expansion will see the launch of a more flexible plan, not too dissimilar to what ID Mobile offers, by letting you increase or decrease your data allowance, or number of minutes and texts available every month.

The length of contracts range from 12 to 24 months and those who are already Virgin Media customers can have two mobile subscriptions per account.

PIC  1  IMG_8078_1 Virgin Media's Ronan McEvoy (left) and Anne O’Flynn (middle) at the launch of its new mobile phone range.

How does it separate itself from its rivals?

On top of flexibility, the two other factors are transparency and how it handles upgrades.

Your bill is split up into two parts: one showing what you’re paying for your phone while the other is for your contract. Once your phone is paid for, you only have to pay for the plan itself.

The same thing applies to upgrades allowing you to do so whenever you want. If you pay for a Samsung S7 and all of a sudden you want to upgrade to a newer phone, you only have to pay off what you owe on the phone.

The idea is that you know exactly how much you will have to pay, and you won’t have to pay extra upfront costs when upgrading, something that will likely encourage people to stay on the network.

What phones are being offered?

So far, the only four brands that are being offered are Apple, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft, only 12 phones including the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S7 will be available at launch. The phones available are:

  • iPhone 6s 16GB and 64GB
  • iPhone 6, 5s and SE
  • Samsung Galaxy S7, S6 Edge, S6, A3 and J5
  • Sony Xperia X, XA, and Z5 Compact
  • Microsoft Lumia 550

It’s a concise list, but there are some omissions including HTC and Huawei. It makes sense for it to focus on recognisable brands – according to McEvoy, people look at the phone first and then the plan – but those wanting other phones on its deal will have to buy one unlocked.

US TEC Samsung Smartphone Durability Virgin Mobile will include a few select devices first like the iPhone 6s and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (pictured). Source: AP Photo/Richard Drew

So how does it stack up?

As mentioned earlier, the option of flexibility is more appealing to those looking for a new phone contract but there are some caveats that you should be aware of.

For one, the deals are more enticing for current Virgin Media customers since non-customers will be paying €5 a month extra. That might not seem like much on its own, but when you’re also paying for a phone on top of it, it can add up over the months.

Depending on what kind of deal or phone you’re looking for, you might find better offers with other providers, either through a cheaper monthly deal or Pay as you Go, but it does have an advantage over more traditional providers like Vodafone and Three which offer more plans but are inflexible.

Still, the offering of choice and rewarding current customers instead of new ones is something that will win it fans, but the deal is still aimed at current Virgin customers, not a general audience. Those not signed up to its TV or broadband services may find other providers more attractive as the extra €5 per month can add up.

Either way, you should always consider your phone usage first before you commit to a new contract or deal.

Figuring out how much you can realistically pay per month is important and knowing how the pricing breaks down after the promotion is important – it is possible you could end up paying €40-50 a month for a premium phone after the four month promotion ends.

What Virgin Mobile is offering is certainly positive, and more competition in the market is always welcome as it means better deals for customers, but look first before you leap.

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