If you're expecting to see a major difference in the cost of an iPhone between these two UK networks, then think again. It's not an accident that the price is similar. When it boils down to it, it seems likely that both companies buy the handsets with the same overheads and naturally that's going to be passed on to the customer. It may be a different story by the time Vodafone comes along but for now, that's the way it is.
That said, there are differences in the price plans, if not the overall cost of each package. Combine that with an alternative way of looking at each deal and you start to get a better picture of where the real value lies. Take a look. The O2 packages are in blue and the ones from Orange in, er, orange.
What strikes you first if you glance over to the far right column is that, generally speaking, those 24 month contracts seem to cost a lot more in the long run. In fact, if you look at the differences in similar deals over the two time periods, it's quite astonishing. So, it appears that extending the term to alleviate the initial outlay might not be such a good idea. Together with the fact that your phone is more likely to be out-dated in the course of 2 years and it looks very bad indeed.
Beyond that, it's quite impressive how well these tariffs have been set out within each provider as well. The jump up from handset to handset within each tariff is regular according to the time frame of pay back. The bottom line is that you're not going to find one deal that significantly better value than another. On the other hand, it does give you a better idea of which one might best suit your needs.
Other important considerations beyond the plan are going to be over which network is going to suit you. Both providers offer "unlimited" Wi-Fi hotspot access with their partners as well as making you pay additionally for internet tethering as well.
Both also provide what they call unlimited data packages too. Orange puts a real figure to it of 750MB, whereas O2 only refers to a fair usage policy which is designed to reflect proper usage as well as the user's drain on the rest of the network. In practice, it's designed to make sure people are just using their allowances for mobile browsing, but at the same time it does give the company a license to set the bar wherever it pleases. Which proves to be more in practice is anyone's guess.
Much has been suggested about O2's quality of network as well, but its people have also looked to the handset's short-comings to explain a perceived poor reception. It's unlikely there'll be a huge difference with Orange, so at the end of the day, you'll do best to stick with the provider that works best in your area.
Last of all, it's worth considering the added benefits. One reason for not talking about the PAYG plans is that Orange is applying its animal tariffs to them where you can receive free weekend and evening calls or unlimited texts or free music. At the same time, O2 has top-up bonuses to consider as well.
So, until Vodafone arrives onto the scene, what it might all come down to is Orange Wednesdays and a bit of personal choice. Of course, by that time there'll be a new iPhone to consider - in leaks if not in reality. Decisions, decisions. Ever thought about Android?