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O2 review 2024 - is the mobile network worth it?

Our O2 review answers all the questions you might have about signing up or switching over to this ever popular UK network provider.

Custom image for O2 network review with a Honor Magic6 Pro running the O2 app

Our Verdict

While free EU roaming and O2 priority are great perks, O2 is one of the slowest networks in the UK and one of the more expensive. 5G coverage is expanding, but you still struggle to get any signal at all in rural areas, making for an often frustrating experience. Unless you’re in it for the gig tickets and international roaming, it’s worth checking out the other network providers to see what offers you can find.

Reasons to buy
  • Perks like O2 priority
  • Solid 5G coverage
  • EU roaming
  • Customizable plans
Reasons to avoid
  • Poor customer service
  • Slow download speeds
  • Can be expensive

 

O2 is one of the biggest network providers in the UK, with over 23 million customers. It’s also the oldest network in the country, outliving Orange and One2One to contend with other members of the big four, Three, EE, and Vodafone. Still, is O2 any good? To find out, we’ve delved into the coverage, roaming, customer service, and bonuses to see if Britain’s biggest network is also its best, or whether you’re better suited with another provider.

Of course, we’ve also got information on pricing for phone and sim-only plans, as well as the pay-as-you-go alternative, so you can see which O2 plan best suits your needs and how much it might set you back. If, after reading our O2 review, you decide it’s not the network for you, you can check out the alternatives in our guide to the best UK phone providers. With that out of the way, let’s get into it.

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Custom image for O2 network review with a Honor Magic6 Pro captured on the O2 log-in screen

Price and availability

As with all networks, pricing with O2 depends on what kind of plan suits your needs and how many gigabytes of data you use monthly. We’ve listed the prices for all the available sim-only deals below, all of which come with unlimited calls and texts. If you’re looking for a specific phone contract, you’ll have to visit the O2 site. There are too many to mention here.

 Plan Price (monthly) Data allowance Contract length
 1GB £18 1GB 12 months
3GB  £15 3GB 24 months
6GB  £20 (12-month plan) / £17 (24-month plan) 6GB  12 months / 24 months
12GB Plus £21.99 (12-month plan) / £17.99 (24-month plan) 12GB 12 months / 24 months
20GB £22 (12-month plan) / £19 (24-month plan) 20GB 12 months / 24 months
30GB Plus £23.99 (12-month plan) / £20.99 (24-month plan) 30GB 12 months / 24 months
50GB  £24 50GB 12 months
100GB  £25 (12-month plan) / £22 (24-month plan) 100GB 12 months / 24 months
150GB Plus £26.99 (12-month plan) / £19.99 (24-month plan) 150GB 12 months / 24 months
250GB £26 250GB 24 months
Unlimited £33 (12-month plan) / £31 (24-month plan) Unlimited 12 months / 24 months
Unlimited Plus £34.99 (12-month plan) / £32.99 (24-month plan) Unlimited 12 months / 24 months

If you’re wondering what the difference between Unlimited and Unlimited Plus is, allow us to explain. With Plus packages, you get roaming access in more countries – like the US and Mexico – plus six months free of a choice of extras, including Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, and three months of free Apple TV. If you’re on a phone contract, Plus plans also give you the option to change your phone every 90 days with O2 Switch Up. It’s a pretty nice option if you get bored of a device quickly or you’re patiently waiting for the next big thing.

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It’s worth saying that while we can’t list all the different prices for different phone contracts, one of the best things about O2 is how much you can customize a contract to suit your needs. For example, if you wanted to pick up an iPhone 15 Pro Max today, you can select your contract length, from 3-36 months, choose how much you want to pay upfront, and pick out a data plan from 1GB to unlimited data.

While it might not be clear without putting these prices next to those from other brands, O2 is one of the more expensive providers. For instance, EE’s 30GB sim-only plan is £17 monthly over 24 months, versus O2’s £20.99. For the same price as O2’s 30GB plan 24-month plan, you could opt to go with Vodafone and get 50GB of data, nearly double what O2 offers. Three can be similarly pricey, but all four brands offer occasional deals, so it’s worth checking out the competition before making the plunge.

Coverage and speeds

According to data from a Statista report in 2023, O2 is the worst network for download speeds in the UK, with a paltry 19.3 megabits per second. That might not sound so bad to the uninitiated, but it’s less than half EE’s 47.7 Mbps score and is well behind 3’s 35.4 Mbps download speeds. This means that you’re going to suffer slow downloads if you’re away from a Wi-Fi connection, which can be frustrating if you’re often on the move.

As an O2 user, I know all too well that this network can be pretty hit-and-miss. Both 5G and 4G coverage are more reliable in built-up urban areas, with things getting pretty choppy the further out into the sticks you go. If you’re going to very rural areas, don’t expect to get any sort of internet connection. This is true of nearly all the UK network providers, but from personal experience, I know it can be tricky just making calls and sending texts in some locations, even if O2 is putting plenty of resources into extending its coverage across the country.

Custom image for O2 review showing the network's home screen on the official website on a phone screen

Looking at the O2 coverage map on nperf.com, you can see that it’s mainly built-up areas like London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and others with 5G coverage at the time of writing. In some areas of Wales, Scotland, and the East and North of England, even 4G coverage is patchy at best. Still, only Three offers wider 5G coverage, so I can’t fault O2 too much here.

If you want to double-check the O2 coverage in your area before making the plunge, check out Ofcom’s online tool of the aforementioned coverage map on nperf.com. Both tools also offer details on coverage for the other big-name brands, so if you live in a rural area, it can point out which provider offers the most reliable coverage.

Roaming

As someone who’s been to multiple EU countries in the last year with an O2 phone, I have to commend the network’s approach to roaming. You can keep using your data, whether you’re on a contract or pay-as-you-go plan, up to a cap of 25GB a month (providing your data plan is above 25GB). In my experience, coverage speeds are a little quicker in mainland Europe, though I’ve only visited capital cities so this might not be true for smaller towns or rural areas.

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If you’re going further afield than Europe, the O2 Plus plans offer roaming in more destinations, including the US and Australia. You can find the full list of available roaming areas on the O2 site under the term O2 Travel Inclusive Zone. If you don’t have a Plus plan, you can opt to get an O2 roaming bolt-on for £6 a day, with no limits on data outside of a 2Mbps speed cap. It sounds expensive, but that’s only just a pound more than Three, and just under a pound less than Vodafone for the same service.

Customer service and perks

It only takes a quick look at customer review sites like Trustpilot and Review Centre to get the impression that O2 customer service isn’t quite up to snuff. While it’s important to remember that users often don’t flock to these sites to give glowing reviews, it still makes for some pretty concerning reading if you’re an O2 customer or thinking about becoming one. One-star reviews make up 85% of O2’s Trustpilot page, most of which are complaints regarding customer service.

Custom image for O2 review showing some of the perks on the official website on a phone screen

A big bonus to using O2 is the O2 priority offers. From early access to arena tours from massive artists to a free hot drink at Greggs and free access to Disney+, this network offers more incentives than the rest combined. I’m not a massive live music fan these days, but even I’ve benefitted from the O2 Priority service, so it’s well worth looking into if you’re a frequent gig attendee who needs a new network.

Should you use O2?

As I’ve made clear, there are plenty of reasons to opt for O2 as your network provider. You get access to O2 priority offers and fantastic coverage in the EU, while the company is one of the most proactive in terms of its 5G rollout. O2’s international roaming prices are also quite fair and cover most major destinations, so it’s certainly a solid option if you’re a frequent traveler in and outside of the EU.

However, there are some pretty important caveats. For one, the download speeds on O2 are the worst of the big four by some margin, leaving you with long download times if you’re not using your home Wi-Fi. The other big sticking point is customer service, with countless complaints of users struggling to contact O2 or spending hours at a time on hold with the network. Then, there’s the price point. There’s no getting away from it, O2 is one of the more expensive networks in the big four. It’s up to you whether you think it’s worth it.

Alternatives

If our 02 review has you thinking of checking out some other networks, see our suggestions for alternatives below.

Three

If you’re not bothered about roaming, Three is the best alternative to O2, with cheaper plans that offer more data, better download speeds, and 4G coverage that at least matches, if not beats, what you get with O2. You don’t get the O2 Priority perks, and Three’s customer service record isn’t golden either, but it covers the basics more comprehensively than the rest of the available networks.

EE

EE is another of the big four network providers in the UK and a solid option if you’re second-guessing going with O2. This is a network that offers consistently solid 4G and 5G download speeds and coverage, though it’s also up there with O2 in terms of expensive contracts. It’s down to you whether you value reliable connection or perks like O2 Priority more.