Want a new phone? Change networks, then.

Will Head Contributor

Exclusive deals between mobile phone companies and networks existed before the iPhone, but Apple really pulled off a coup by managing to get its claws on a chunk of the subscriber revenue too. This is all good for Steve Jobs but a pain in the bum if you're not on the right network.

Anti social networking

Now, since O2's deal with Apple, it looks like we'll see yet more exclusive deals as the other networks try and one up each other and lure customers away. Vodafone recently snapped up the BlackBerry Storm and it looks like it's now going after the Palm Pre as well. It may be good for the networks' bottom line, but isn't exactly the consumer friendly option.

Imagine if BP had a deal with BMW so if you bought a Mini you could only fill up at its service stations? It would obviously need to install some sort of lock on the fuel cap that would only open up for certainly pumps, but it's not beyond the bounds of technology. (Unless you're from BMW or BP - in which case this is in no way technologically possible. At all. Okay?)

Cheap at half the price

Locking was originally introduced to stop sneaky types running off with a heavily subsidised phone and using it on a different network. But with handsets like the iPhone - and no doubt the Pre as well - you're already paying a hefty chunk up front, not getting it for next to nothing in exchange for shelling out for a now almost standard 18 months.

A year and a half is a long time in mobile phones and some networks are even pushing for two year deals. By then there might be mobile phones that can read your mind, send text messages for you in advance or even fob off your mates for you when you'd rather have a quiet night in rather than go down the pub.

Given the hassle of having to transfer your number across, the potential of being phoneless for a week, not to mention having to decode a whole new range of tariffs and plot coverage blackspots it could turn out that you may be better off sticking where you are. After all, there'll probably be a bigger, better handset along in a minute anyway.


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