I used to remember the days when a mobile phone contract was 12 months, and that was it. Everyone knew, you bought a contract, and it lasted 12 months.
Then, something happened. Either phones got more expensive (probably) and/or networks got a bit more greedy (also, probably), but they started offering 18 month contracts. Presumably the people buying these contracts were happy to sacrifice the sacred ‘upgrade’ for 6 months in return for a shiney Jesusphone or something.
It was a slippery slope from there to 24 months, and suddenly 12 month contracts were as rare as Ruby programmers who knew anything about performance. The only way you could get one would be to take out a sim-only contract, which meant (shock!) paying for your own telephony device!!! gasp.
This is, of course, folly. But then you think about it for a bit and realise that (deep voice) in a world where you can get a premium smartphone for only £280, as opposed to the usual £600, you’re better off buying it outright and going onto a sensible sim-only contract.
So I did that. I now have a nice new Nexus 4 to replace my Samsung Galuxy S2. I’m getting about £95 back for the Galaxy, and have moved onto a fairly cheap 12 month contract, with lots of words like ‘unlimited’ in it. Financially, this is a bit of a win.
Good things: It’s a nice device. I like it. Performance is good. The screen is lovely. Things are cheaper now. It has exciting useless things like NFC. It’s running a stock version of Android, so I’ll get the latest whenever Google release it. It’s sparkly. It’s also not tied to the contract, so I can sell it and get a different one whenever.
Bad things: Stock Android isn’t as capable as, say, Cyanogenmod in many more ways than you’d expect. E.g. I can’t customize the quick settings. Also, the fact that I’ve paid cash for it now means I suddenly care very deeply about insurance. It’s also got an integrated battery - I’m a bit uneasy about this, but we’ll see how it goes. Also, no microSD card slot - big sadface. Time will tell how much these things bother me.
In short, I can’t quite remember why it was a good idea to get mobile phone networks to subsidise phones on contracts. Take out a loan, put it on a credit card, whatever. Buy it separately. Also, I conclude that newer phones are better than older phones.