Cookies on the SIM Sherpa website

We use cookies to track which pages on our website readers visit most. This helps us understand which topics people find interesting, to write more articles about them.

You can accept these tracking cookies or choose to block them. You can change these settings at any time.

X close

✖ Tracking cookies deleted and blocked

Ok, we will not track your page views as you move around any part of the SIM Sherpa website. But we will use that one cookie to remember you don't want to be tracked.

Click here to unblock tracking cookies

X close

✔ Cookies accepted

Thank you for accepting cookies for the SIM Sherpa website. This will help us constantly improve our content.

If you ever want to change your cookie settings for our website, go to our Cookies page here.

O2 mobile review: new benefits for 2018 but still a pricey network

O2 Mobile review

O2 are one of the pricier mobile networks to join. So we review their benefits, 4G speeds and UK coverage to check you're actually getting a good deal. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: September 19th 2018.

Overall rating

O2 Mobile

SIM Sherpa rates O2 as a solid provider let down by high prices
 (3 / 5, good)

"We can't fault O2 for getting the basics of excellent nationwide coverage right. But their 4G speeds still leave a bit to be desired. And while Priority is nice perk, O2 have been overtaken by other providers in terms of the added benefits you get with your deal."

Our guide below shows they have a number of handy extras on top too but that the overall package does come at a bit of a premium, which other providers will often be able to beat for all-round value.

The 3 best bits

1) The second best coverage in the UK
2) Leading customer loyalty rewards scheme
3) Brilliant free WiFi hotspot access

The 3 worst bits

1) Slowest measured 4G speeds
2) Tough phone contract credit requirements
3) No recent innovative extra benefits

In our review of O2

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G/3G coverage
Data speeds
Call quality
Free WiFi hotspots
Tethering
WiFi calling

Perks review

Perks & extras

Inclusive roaming
Spending caps
Rewards/incentives
Multibuy discounts
Free subscriptions
Data-saving schemes
Data rollover

Deal review

Deals

Special offers
SIM only plans
Phone contracts
Pay As You Go
Mobile broadband

Customer service review

Customer service

Ofcom data

Is O2's network any good?

Coverage: O2 have made huge improvements to 4G signal

Check O2 4G/3G signal

Make sure O2 have good reception near youSee coverage map

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

O2 are one of the UK's four main network providers (the others are EE, Three and Vodafone). This means they run and own their mobile network - without relying on anyone else like smaller providers do.

They've been investing heavily in their 4G network recently and it's now beginning to pay off for O2's customers, as they've just reached their 97% outdoor 4G coverage target.

This closes the gap on EE who offer 99% population coverage for 4G and makes O2 the 2nd best network for coverage overall (read our full EE vs O2 comparison here). It's one of O2's main selling points.

If you join O2, this means fast internet and clear calls in more places than before. But we'd still always recommend that you check precise coverage in the places you use your phone, before you sign up.

Useful link: Check your local O2 coverage with their 4G/3G network map.

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
2nd

Not as good as:
EE

Better than:
Vodafone and Three

Speeds: O2's 4G measures up as the slowest in the UK

Average 4G speeds on O2
16.95 Mbps
15.16 Mbps

While O2's investments have greatly improved the number of places you can access their faster (than 3G) 4G signal, they're still lagging behind the other networks for the overall speed of the mobile internet connection.

That's our conclusion from independent network testers' reports about O2 and their rivals.

Both OpenSignal and Speedtest use apps on people's phones to measure the average download speed they receive on each network over 4G. O2 averages between  15.16 - 16.95 Mbps.

That's only about 50% of the fastest network (EE)'s typical results and could cause things like HD video streaming to buffer and downloads to take longer.

Speed isn't O2's strong point. We can only give them an average rating for now.

Useful link: What O2 say about their own 4G

Our rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint last (with other networks who use O2)

Not as good as:
EE, Three, Vodafone

Better than:
N/A

Call quality: O2 are now ranked last by specialist testers

Call quality on O2

O2 performed well for audio quality and set uptimesRead about 4G calling

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Even though, we use our phones mainly for data more and more, we still think it's important to look at how a mobile network performs for actually making voice calls. So we rate each network in this category too.

Unfortunately, this is something that O2 have slipped behind other networks for this year. That's according to the most recent report into call quality from the independent testing company P3.

They look into audio quality and call setup times across the country. Their results put O2 last behind Three, Vodafone and EE, who scooped the best rankings. They still give O2 a 'satisfactory' rating.

O2's new 4G calling service should help them improve even further in next year's tests. But for the time being it's hard to give O2 more than a good rating for call quality.

Useful link: Read O2's guide to network improvements

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
4th out of 4

Not as good as:
EE, Vodafone, Three

Same as:
Tesco, giffgaff, Sky

WiFi calling: O2 have just made their scheme worse!

O2's WiFi calling and app

O2 will need to support your particular phoneSee supported phones

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

More and more mobile networks are now offering what's called WiFi calling, which lets you make calls on your phone over a WiFi signal instead of conventional mobile signal.

The obvious benefit of this is allowing you to keep using your phone, even in places that regular reception doesn't reach: like underground or in buildings with thick walls.

We used to rate O2 higher because they had an excellent app called Tu-Go, which let you make calls over WiFi abroad but it has now been scrapped.

It was also useful if O2's main WiFi calling didn't support your phone (here's a list of currently-supported models). It's not huge and contains restrictions like Android phones must have been bought from O2 directly.

If your phone is supported by O2's WiFi calling, it's as good as any network's.

Useful link: All about how O2's WiFi calling works

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Not as good as:
Three, Vodafone, EE

Free WiFi hotspots: O2 are among our best-rated providers

Free O2 WiFi hotspots

Free, fast and unlimited WiFi data on O2How you get it

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

In our reviews, we're always on the lookout for networks that help you save your monthly allowance of mobile data by offering you free access to public WiFi hotspots to use instead.

This is an area we can give O2 a good rating for because all their customers (pay monthly or pay as you go) get free access to their network of approximately 7000 WiFi hotspots nationwide (find ones near you here).

Their free WiFi tends to be located in useful locations on the high street like restaurants, cafes, shopping malls.

If you bought your phone from O2 directly, it will have software on it that will connect your phone automatically to most hotspots If not, you can still connect manually yourself.

All in all, O2 WiFi is a nice free benefit that saves data and gives you a fast internet connection.

Useful link: All about free O2 WiFi from their official guide.

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
3rd

Better than:
Everyone else

Tethering: it's allowed on all O2's deals

O2 tethering policy

Tethering could quickly push you over data limitsSee extra data costs

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Tethering is using your phone and its mobile data connection to create a mini WiFi hotspot around you that you can connect other internet-enabled devices to when you're away from home.

Not every network allows you to do it because it can use up data more quickly than just regular browsing on your phone (check O2 costs for going over your limits here).

Tethering is allowed on O2 whether you're on a pay monthly or pay as you go phone or SIM only plan.

For that reason, we can give O2 our joint best choice rating for tethering.

Useful link: Read general O2 terms and conditions

Our rating:
★★★★★ (Joint best choice)

Rank:
Joint 1st

As good as:
EE, Vodafone, O2, BT, Plusnet, Tesco

Better than:
iD Mobile, Virgin Mobile

O2's perks and extras reviewed

Inclusive roaming: some O2 plans now include worldwide destinations

Free EU roaming on O2

48 free roaming destinations in the EUCheck included countries

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Ever since the rules on roaming in the EU changed back in June 2017, O2 have offered EU roaming at no extra cost in these 48 countries, on pay monthly and pay as you go bundles.

But now if you pick the right plan, there are even more places you can go without paying extra:

Take a £20 a month or more 12-month SIM, or an O2 Refresh phone tariff over 15GB, and you can use your regular allowances in a further 27 international destinations (listed here) including the USA.

This is a welcome move but it's worth pointing out it's still only available on the more expensive deals, so it's hard to describe as a full-on freebie like Three's Go Roam scheme.

For non-qualifying plans or travel elsewhere, O2's Travel pass scheme lets pay a fixed daily charge for a block of minutes and texts back to the UK and a small data allowance (see costs per country here).

Useful links: How roaming works on O2

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
4th

Not as good as:
Three, EE, Vodafone

Slightly better than:
All others

Spending caps: you can't limit overspending on O2 yourself

Tesco Mobile capped contracts

Tesco Mobile do have spending caps and use O2Read more

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

In this category, we look at what measures each provider has to stop you racking larger-than-expected bills for going over your monthly allowances or using other premium services.

The most common way is to let you put a cap on how much extra you're willing to pay above your regularly monthly cost. Once you hit this amount, anything that'd would cost you extra to use is temporarily blocked.

O2 don't offer this facility with any of their deals so we can only give them a poor rating.

If you think you want a spending cap, we can recommend Tesco Mobile's capped contracts for the peace of mind of not being able to overspend on a phone or SIM only plan while still using the O2 network for signal.

Useful link: How Tesco Mobile's capped contracts work

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Tesco, iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, BT Mobile

Equal to:
All others

Customer rewards: O2's Priority is our best-rated scheme

O2 Priority rewards scheme

Thousands of daily savings to be hadSee new Priority deals

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

In this part of our review, we look for how networks look after their existing customers by rewarding them for staying loyal. O2 are pretty much the masters as this, with their famous Priority Rewards scheme.

Take any of their pay monthly or pay as you go plans and you’ll automatically join the 22 million people in the UK already benefitting from the biggest and most popular loyalty scheme in the country.

It gives you useful discounts and exclusive offers to use on the high street and online, which you could end up using every day.

Get cheap meals, discounted travel and shopping that people not on O2 can't access. Plus skip to the front of the queue for music and sporting event tickets, where O2 is the sponsor.

If you play it right, you can end up writing off the cost of your mobile by taking advantage of the thousands of deals on Priority. So it's definitely worth taking a look at what's available to see how you could benefit.

Useful link: How O2 Priority works from O2's official guide

Our rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st

Better than:
All other

Not as good as:
N/A

Shared plans/multibuys: O2 does an alright but not great job

O2's Family Plans

Discounted additional plans and share dataFamily Plan discounts

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

This section of our reviews looks for networks that reward you with better deals for taking out multiple contracts with them at once. O2 do have a couple of things to offer when it comes to this:

The first are O2's Sharer plans. These allow you to share the monthly data allowance of one main phone contract with up to 9 other people on phone, SIM only or tablet deals (here's O2's guide to how they work).

The main benefit of these would be if you signed yourself up to one deal with loads of data, you could theoretically take out cheaper ones with less data to share with. For us, this is probably more faff to manage than it's worth and there are no large clear-to-understand cost savings.

The second scheme is O2's Family plans, which give you up to a 50% discount on the airtime element of an O2 Refresh phone deal on extra contracts you take out.

But because of the way Refresh deals are structured, this will typically actually amount to between 17% and 47% off the whole monthly cost. So there are concrete savings but they're a little hard to calculate.

Useful link: See O2's Family plan discounts

Our rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
6th

Better than:
All others

Entertainment subscriptions: O2 have nothing to offer

Free Apple Music on EE

6 months free subscription on EEFree Apple Music on EE

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Another way mobile phone networks are sweetening their deals is to throw in an included subscription to an entertainment streaming service. O2 don't offer anything like their main rivals do.

On EE, pay monthly customers will get a free 6-month subscription to Apple Music plus BT Sport app access on certain plans for instance. We've written a full O2 vs EE head-to-head comparison here.

Or on Vodafone, their most premium plans come with your choice of either a subsription to NOW TV, Sky Sports Mobile or Spotify Premium (read all differences between O2 vs Vodafone here).

No inclusive subscriptions means we can only give O2 a poor rating in this category.

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Vodafone, EE, BT Mobile

Equal to:
All others

Data rollover: O2 only offer it on Pay As You Go

O2 data rollover on pay as you go

Some providers let you keep data you haven't usedSee PAYG SIMs

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Everyone's data usage changes month to month. Sometimes you'll have loads left over, sometime you might even go over your monthly limit and paying for an extra to see you through to next month.

Some mobile providers have started to recognise this and have come up with an interesting concept that generally gets called data rollover (see all networks with data rollover here).

These special plans either carry forward any data you've not used so you can use it in the next month. Or they put unused data away in a kind of bank account that you can withdraw from whenever you need.

O2 don't include this benefit with their pay monthly phone contracts or SIM only deals. But you do now get to keep unused data for one month with their pay as you go Big Bundles, as long as you buy a new bundle next month too.

Useful link: Networks offer data rollover plans on pay monthly

Our rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint 5th

Equal to:
EE and Vodafone

Data saving schemes: no free data for streaming/messaging

Three's Go Binge

Stream certain services without using data on ThreeSee what's included

at three.co.uk
(opens in new window)

One new way that some networks are adding extra value to their deals is by giving you free data to use for streaming or social media, which doesn't come out of your allowance. O2 don't offer anything like this.

The best examples we've seen so far are Three's Go Binge that lets you watch services like Netflix on your phone without using up data on selected plans (we've reviewed Go Binge here).

Another good scheme comes from EE, who are giving away a 6-month subscription to Apple Music and free data to stream it with to their pay monthly customers.

And lastly, is Virgin Mobile's scheme that lets you message on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook Messenger without eating into your monthly data allowance on their phone and SIM only plans.

Useful link: We find the best free data scheme in the UK

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Equal to:
Everyone else

Comparing O2's deals

Different deal types available on O2

Choose which type you're looking for to learn more:

Special offers currently on O2

What promotions are the on O2 this month?

O2 improve most of their SIM only deals

September is an excellent month to take a SIM only deal from O2, because they've added more data to lots of the plans, and discounted their largest deals such as:

60GB data, unlimited mins and texts: £60 £30 a month

30GB 40GB data, unlimited mins and texts: £25 a month

20GB data, unlimited mins and texts: £20 a month

Each qualifies for free worldwide roaming in O2's Inclusive Travel Zone too, including the USA and 75 countries in total.

Useful link: See all other O2 offers

SIM only contracts on O2

Compare prices on pay monthly SIMs on O2 with our handy tool just below

O2 SIM only tariff fact file

Number of plans available:
Price range: £ - £ a month
Contract lengths:
SIM card sizes: Standard, Micro, Nano

Minutes allowances:
Texts allowances:
Data allowances:
Data speed: 4G on all plans

Find a SIM only plan

Choose what you want in your deal:

Deal options >
Choose mins, texts and data >
Choose data speed (3G or 4G) >
Choose max contract length >

Close options

Minutes

Texts

Data

Done

Minimum data speed

Any
3G
4G
Done

Maximum contract length

Any
1 month
12 months
Done

Close filters

Choose which networks you'd consider:

Three logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
ID logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
SMARTY logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo
Showing SIM only deals with at least
 mins |  texts |  data on 3G or 4Gedit search
( possibilities) on any length contract.

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)
Want more results?
Use these filters to make your search more specific
minutes
texts
data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
100MB data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
100MB data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
100MB data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract

Phone contracts on O2

We look at the pros and cons of taking a pay monthly phone with O2:

Build your own plan with O2's new custom phone plans

O2's customisable plans

How custom plans work

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

O2 have introduced customisable plans on their pay monthly phones, which let you individually choose a contract length anywhere between 3 and 36 months, an upfront cost and the amount of data you want.

The benefits of this are pretty clear: you can spread the cost of the phone out over a period that makes the monthly cost affordable to you, you choose how long you're tied in, and you can pay as much or little up front as you have in your budget.

When you're confronted with so many choices though it can be tricky to decide, and it becomes way harder to compare costs and calculate the best deal. But there's nothing sneaky in the way O2 price these deals:

Whichever contract length or upfront cost you choose, the total cost of the device stays the same, and so does the cost of the minutes, texts and data plan. In other words, there's no winning or losing combination where it becomes more expensive or cheaper to change your payment terms (other networks are guilty of this).

Our advice would be to tie yourself into a deal as short as possible but make sure you can manage the higher monthly payments this will cause.

Useful link: How building your own plan works

Upgrade early with O2 Refresh tariffs

Early upgrade with O2 Refresh

About early upgrades

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

The most important thing to realise with O2's smartphone contracts is that they're based on splitting your overall deal into two parts: one for the cost of your device, the other for your minutes, text and data.

Virgin, Sky, giffgaff and Tesco offer similar deals. O2 call theirs Refresh. They're based on credit agreements (basically loans) for your phone, which you pay back over a set period.

The key advantage for you is that you're free to pay the full cost off early at any point if you have the spare money. At that point you're able to upgrade to a new phone, or leave O2 entirely.

Also, once the device has been paid off in full, you won't keep paying for it. So if you do nothing, the cost of your bill will drop to the amount you're paying your monthly minutes, texts and data only.

But you should know that taking this type of contract is a serious obligation: you're basically taking out a loan for hundreds of pounds. If you've had debt issues before you're unlikely to be accepted for this type of contract.

Useful link: O2's full guide to their Refresh tariffs

Use our pay monthly phone contract comparison tool

Our price comparison tool

Compare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

We've developed a phone contract comparison tool that looks at pricing of phone deals on practically every network and model.

Use the link below to see how O2's pricing stacks up with rival networks.

Useful link: Compare phone contract prices now

O2's Pay As You Go

Don't want to pay monthly? We look at if O2 are a good option for you

O2's Classic Pay As You Go is among the UK's cheapest deals

O2's classic pay as you go plan

Get a free SIM card

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

One of our main criticisms of O2 on pay monthly is how expensive they are. But on pay as you go it's a much more positive story:

The Classic PAYG tariff actually the joint best-value basic rates of any major network (equal to Three), with 3p per minute calls, 2p texts and 1p per MB data charges. Only 1p Mobile go cheaper (1p per min/text/MB).

This type of tariff is ideal for someone who barely uses their phone and wants to top up with a tenner of credit and chip away at that over multiple months. O2 also have monthly bundles for more-frequent users:

Their Big Bundles let you exchange credit for a bundle of minutes, texts and data that lasts 30 days (you'll get to keep data you don't get through for a month). These are more expensive than going pay monthly.

A cheaper monthly bundle option is giffgaff's goodybags as a low-cost alternative that runs on O2's network (plus get £5 free credit here).

Useful link: See all O2's pay as you go options

O2 Mobile Broadband

We look at whether it's worth taking a data SIM or dongle from O2

There are plenty of choices for tablet data SIMs and dongles

O2 Mobile broadband

See data-only plans

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

In terms of wide 4G coverage, we'd say O2 are good choice for a mobile broadband SIM or device. Although average recorded speeds between  15.16 - 16.95 Mbps might not be enough to replace home fibre broadband.

On SIM only, you've got a choice of 12-month contracts, 1-month contract (£2 more a month) or pre-loaded SIMs. We'd probably take a 1-month deal first to try, before moving to a cheaper, longer commitment once happy.

We really don't rate O2's preloaded SIMs. Most options, the data expires after 1 month, so you might as well get a cheaper contract deal. And the 12 month expiry options are priced so high that they're basically pointless.

If you're after a mobile broadband device too, O2 have a standard range of pocket hotspot devices and dongles. We'd go for a mobile WiFi one over a dongle as it can be used with multiple devices at one.

The device costs around £20 - £30 spread over your chosen contract length, which is decent value. And then your data plan is priced roughly the same as O2's data SIMs.

Useful link: All benefits of O2's Mobile Broadband plan

O2 customer service reviews

Customer service: O2 score well in Ofcom complaints data

Ofcom complaints data

O2 receive fewer complaints than averageSee all O2's awards

It's practically inevitable with a mobile network that people are going to experience problems from time to time. The important thing is how well providers deal with their customers' issues.

That's why we use Ofcom's data on how many complaints they receive about each network to determine our customer service scores. If Ofcom receive a complaint, it means the provider hasn't resolved it themselves.

O2 have a great reputation for looking after their customers and this is reflected in the Ofcom data, which shows they receive fewer complaints per 100,000 customers than the industry average.

If you've had grief with your previous provider, Ofcom's data suggests you're less likely to have a bad experience on O2.

Their online 'Guru' service is a nice resource for sorting out technical problems without having to phone them up.

Useful link: See O2's online help section

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

network logos