Virgin Mobile Freestyle Contracts: Upgrade Your Phone Or Handset At Any Time
June 7th, 2016
Virgin Mobile offers Pay Monthly handsets on the Freestyle tariff. It gives you flexibility to change your phone or airtime tariff at any point.
Virgin Mobile currently offers all of their Pay Monthly handsets on the Freestyle tariff. Unlike traditional mobile phone contracts, Freestyle is split into two parts: one part for the phone and another part for the airtime.
An advantage of the Freestyle set-up is you’ll be able to upgrade your phone at any time. You’ll also have full flexibility to change your airtime tariff, for instance if you wanted more allowances or if you wanted to cut your monthly phone bill.
In this article, we’ll review the Freestyle tariff from Virgin Mobile. We’ll look at how much it would cost to get a new smartphone from Virgin Mobile, and how it compares to alternative tariffs from other mobile networks. We’ll also look at the level of coverage you can expect on Virgin Mobile and how you can keep an existing phone number when moving to the network.
- 1 Pricing
- 2 Alternatives
- 3 Network & Coverage
- 4 Keeping Your Phone Number
- 5 Popularity & Number Of Subscribers
- 6 More Information
In the UK, Freestyle is the name of Virgin Mobile’s split-tariff contract. Rather than customers having one combined plan for both their handset and their airtime, Freestyle splits it up into two separate plans giving you much more flexibility:
- With a handset plan, you’ll be able to pay for your smartphone over 24 months. This is actually structured as an interest-free repayment plan for your phone. For instance, you’d pay £10/month for a handset costing £240. You can upgrade to a new handset at any time by paying off the remainder of your handset plan.
- You’ll also choose a tariff plan for your minutes, texts and internet. This is on a 30-day rolling contract so you can change it at any time. For instance, you can upgrade or downgrade your tariff plan to get more data or to save some money. Alternatively, you could cancel your tariff plan and move to another network.
For instance, if you were buying an iPhone 6s, you might have a £27/month handset plan. You could then combine this with a £10/month tariff plan to give a total monthly payment of £37.
At the time of writing, Virgin Mobile offers a choice of 69 different smartphones. They include the latest handsets from Apple and Samsung, as well as from some smaller manufacturers like KAZAM, LG, Microsoft and Sony.
To give an example of how things work, you could for instance choose to buy a 16GB iPhone 6s. At the time of writing, Virgin Mobile lists the the cash price of the handset as £648. Rather than you having to pay the full price for the handset upfront, the iPhone 6s is offered to you on a £27/month handset plan. Nominally, this is an interest-free loan with 0% APR.
In reality, there are some hidden costs included in this price. The cash price as listed by Virgin Mobile is often a little bit inflated compared to the actual retail price. For instance, the same iPhone 6s can be bought for only £539 directly from Apple (so the RRP is actually £109 less than Virgin Mobile’s price). At third-party retailers, you could buy the handset for even cheaper (e.g. it’s only £499 on the giffgaff phone store).
You can upgrade your handset at any time by calling Virgin Mobile customer services on 789. As you’re only able to have one handset plan at a time, you’ll need to pay off the remainder of your existing handset plan before upgrading. Alternatively, if you’re happy to keep your current smartphone, the payments on your handset plan will automatically cease when you reach 24 months. Thereafter, you’ll only need to pay for your airtime plan.
Typically, the Pay Monthly handsets provided by Virgin Mobile are unlocked (so it should normally be possible to also use the handset on other mobile networks).
Once you’ve chosen a handset, you’ll also need to choose an airtime plan. At present, Virgin Mobile offers a choice of six airtime plans:
All of the airtime plans are available on a 30-day rolling contract (they’re actually identical to Virgin Mobile’s 30-day SIM-only tariffs). You can upgrade or downgrade your tariff at any time (e.g. in case you want to get more data or if you wanted to save money on your phone bill).
If you’re an existing Virgin Media customer with TV, broadband or home phone, you’ll additionally get unlimited calling to other Virgin Media phones.
Each July, the cost of your airtime plan will increase with RPI inflation. The handset plan is structured as a loan so will always remain the same.
Changing Phone Or Tariff
With Freestyle, you can change your phone or tariff at any time:
- Changing phone: Typically, you’ll pay for the cost of your handset over 24 months. If you wanted to upgrade to another handset early, you can do this by paying off the remainder of your handset plan. For instance, if you had 12 months remaining on a £10/month handset plan, you’d need to pay £120 to clear the plan. You’d then be able to upgrade your handset early.
- Changing tariff: You can change your tariff at any time by calling Virgin Mobile customer services on 789. Your new tariff will take effect from the following month. Alternatively, you can also cancel your tariff and move to another network (this won’t affect your handset plan).
If you’d like a split-tariff contract where you pay for your handset and airtime separately, Virgin isn’t the only mobile network you’re able to choose from. Other mobile networks with a similar offering include:
- giffgaff: giffgaff has a wide selection of handsets available in their phone store. You can pay for your handset over 24 months and you can then choose up a goodybag for your airtime. On giffgaff, you’ll need to pay about 18.8% interest on the cost of your handset. However, the lower original cost means the total amount payable can sometimes still be less compared to Virgin Mobile.
- O2: When you buy a Pay Monthly handset on O2 Refresh, it’ll be split into two separate parts: a device plan and an airtime plan. O2 doesn’t charge interest on the cost of your device. However, like Virgin Mobile’s Freestyle tariff, the original cash price of the device is often inflated.
- Tesco Mobile: On Tesco Mobile, the Anytime Upgrade feature splits your bill into two separate parts: one part for the handset and another for the airtime. Like on O2 and Virgin, the handset is provided on an interest-free loan. However, the cash price of the device is often still a little bit inflated.
For a wider choice of mobile networks and for greater flexibility, consider buying a SIM-free handset from retailers like Amazon.co.uk, Currys or John Lewis. You’ll often be able to get an unlocked handset for a great price and you can then combine this with the best value SIM-only deal.
Network & Coverage
2G & 3G Coverage from EE
Before you sign up for a Virgin Mobile contract, we strongly recommend you check the coverage in your area. You can do this by entering your postcode on the Virgin Mobile coverage checker:
For more information about mobile phone coverage in the UK, please read our full guide on UK virtual network operators.
4G Coverage Isn’t Available
At present, 4G internet isn’t available on Virgin Mobile for consumers. Though 4G coverage has been promised in the past, Virgin is still yet to set a date for when 4G will be available.
4G coverage is however currently available on Virgin Business Mobile.
If you’re a heavy smartphone user, it’s worth being aware of Virgin Mobile’s acceptable usage policy.
According to the acceptable usage policy, customers using more than 3.5GB of data during a given month will see their download speeds reduced to 384kbit/s. Upload speeds will also be reduced to a maximum of 200kbit/s:
For customers who joined Virgin Media after 25 June 2012 excessive use over 3.5GB of data per calendar month will result in their maximum bandwidth being restricted to 3G speeds (384kbit/s downstream, 200kbit/s upstream) on our network. For customers who joined before 25 June 2012 excessive use over 2GB of data per calendar month will result in this restriction being applied. This policy will apply until the end of the calendar month, when it will be automatically removed. We reserve the right to review these usage levels from time to time.
The speed restrictions will apply regardless of how much data you’ve paid for on your plan (e.g. your speeds would still be reduced after the first 3.5GB even if you chose the airtime plan comes with 10GB of data per month)
Tethering or personal hotspot refers to the process of sharing your smartphone’s internet connection with other devices (e.g. with a laptop or tablet). It’s useful if you want to access the internet from other devices whilst you’re out and about (e.g. if you’re working on your laptop on the commute in to work).
Unfortunately, tethering is not permitted on the Virgin Mobile network. If you’d like an alternative network on which you’re able to tether, please see our guide on the best tariffs for tethering in the UK.
Keeping Your Phone Number
If you’re switching to Virgin Mobile from another network, it’s a straightforward process to keep your existing phone number.
To do so, you’ll need to call up your old mobile network and ask for a PAC Code. This will authorise the transfer of your phone number to Virgin Mobile. Once you have the PAC Code, you can then order your new phone from the Virgin Mobile website.
Once your new phone has arrived, you can call Virgin Mobile customer services on 789 to provide them with your PAC Code. Once you’ve done this, they’ll arrange for the transfer of your phone number. This will normally happen on the next working day providing you call Virgin Mobile before 6pm.
For a step-by-step guide on moving your number to Virgin Mobile, please select your current network from the drop down menu below:
|PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to Virgin Mobile|
Popularity & Number Of Subscribers
In 1999, Virgin Mobile launched as the world’s first virtual network operator. At launch, they were using coverage from the One2One network (later renamed to T-Mobile in 2002). Nowadays, Virgin Mobile uses coverage from EE (which itself was formed in 2010 by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile).
As of December 2015, Virgin Mobile had 2.26 million Pay Monthly customers. In addition, they also had 755,000 Pay As You Go customers, giving a total user base of about 3.1 million.
For more information about the Freestyle contracts, please see the Virgin Mobile website.
My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.
Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.