By Michael Evans
SATISFACTION with my iPhone has been matched by my regard for the UK's chosen carrier, O2 Telefonica. I came to O2 from T-Mobile simply because I bought an iPhone. I was quite happy with T-Mobile, but I have to say that I am quite happy with O2 and the service they provide for the Apple phone. For £34.26 a month I get 600 minutes, 500 texts and "unlimited data", more than I ever need. I suspect there must be some form of fair usage policy on the data, but I have never used enough to know. Despite hefty web browsing and energetic emailing (but little watching of U-Tube videos, I admit) I have used only 400 MB of data in two months. All in all, you get a lot of functionality for very little data.
Undoubtedly, though, the low cellular data use owes a lot to the free wifi services that O2 include with the iPhone bundle. This consists of BT OpenZone and The Cloud, two of the leading wifi hotspot providers in the UK. If I leave wifi switched on (which I don't do all the time to conserve battery power) I am constantly finding myself logged on to wifi. Many coffee shops and businesses offer one or other of the two services and I find that there are public BT hotspots all over the place. Even sitting on the top deck of a No. 94 in Oxford Street I find myself going in and out of BT zones as the bus inches its way to Marble Arch.
This is good for the iPhone user of course. But remember it is even better for O2 because every megabyte of data drawn from a hotspot is a megabyte for which O2 don't have to provide cellular bandwidth. They have no doubt done good deals with the hotspot companies and the result must be a dramatic reduction of data usage on their "unlimited" plans.
It is very fortunate that these wifi opportunities are built into the contract because my subjective view is that 3G availability is not as extensive on O2 as it is on rival networks (in particular on Vodafone). I spend a lot of time looking at the E symbol rather than the 3G and, many times, I have to put up with the dreaded circle, signifying 2G slow coverage. Whatever the situation, we are now so much better off in terms of mobile internet access than we were even twelve months ago.