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Back in the early ‘60s, lead engineer at US company Lockheed Martin, Kelly Johnson, sat his team down to tell them about a new project they'd be working on. He gave them the basic details of what he wanted, handed them a set of tools and before he left the room, commanded them to “keep it simple stupid”.
This four-word phrase has since gone on to be widely-quoted everywhere from design team meeting rooms at the US Air Force to software developer offices up and down Dublin's Silicon Docks.
And after attending the launch of Virgin Media’s new range of mobile products today, one wonders if Richard Branson himself gave that very same iconic instruction to the Virgin Media team tasked with designing mobile plans for Irish consumers.
Following an impressive display of coffee and cronuts, Virgin Media’s Head of Mobile, Ronan McEvoy, took to the stage and announced the company’s vow to “simplify mobile for customers”.
So, just how simple are Virgin Media’s new range of mobile plans going to be?
When UPC re-branded as Virgin Media last October, it announced the launch of a SIM-only mobile offering, which has seen the company gather over 10,000 mobile customers to date. Not a bad start!
This morning, the company ramped up its efforts to increase this number with the launch of a range of devices which can be purchased as part of a fully-fledged mobile plan with the provider from July 7th.
In the name of simplicity, Virgin Media has decided to only offer 16 devices with its service, including the latest iPhones, Samsung Galaxys and Sony Xperias.
Virgin Media’s commitment to simplicity is evident in the way it has structured its new range of mobile plans too, with all customers due to get bills with two amounts; the monthly cost of the service and the monthly contribution to paying for the device. Nice and clear!
And once the device is fully paid off, that cost will drop off a customer’s monthly bill.
Existing customers will pay €25 a month for unlimited data, calls and texts or €15 a month for 1 Gb of data, 250 minutes and 250 texts. As was pointed out at this morning’s launch, over 90% of customers favour the unlimited option. There’s a lot to be said for peace of mind!
Non-Virgin Media customers will pay an extra €5 a month for either plan.
So, we know what the monthly service cost will be, but what about the full cost over the duration of a contract when the purchase of a brand new device is folded in?
Well, let’s look at what the latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy will cost Virgin Mobile customers who opt for an unlimited plan.
The iPhone 6s 16 Gb device will cost €190 up front, followed by €50 a month for unlimited calls, texts and minutes as well as an instalment towards paying off the phone. And that’s discounted to €35 a month for the first 4 months.
Over the full course of a 24-month contract, an existing Virgin Media customer will pay €1,330 for their new iPhone and two years of unlimited data, calls and minutes with the provider. So that's €730 for the cost of the device and €600 for the service across two years.
A Samsung Galaxy S7 and a two-year unlimited plan will also cost €1,330 with Virgin Mobile.
Another customer-friendly aspect of Virgin Mobile’s offering is its ‘freestyle’ contract structure, which allows customers to upgrade or downgrade its monthly plan at any point over the course of the contract.
So, if somebody is paying the maximum monthly price for an unlimited plan but has plans to travel for a few months, he/she can easily downgrade to a cheaper plan which might suit better while out on the road.
In addition to this, customers can get an upgrade at any point, simply by paying off the outstanding amount owed for the device itself. So, no pesky contract breakage penalties and such.
As we regularly point out on bonkers.ie, Virgin Media’s home broadband is the fastest that is widely available in Ireland at the moment, and the company’s commitment to speed is there to be seen in its mobile offering too.
From July 7th, 4G speeds will be available as standard to all customers. And that’s nearly ten times faster than 3G!
Last May, the ESRI published its fascinating ‘Price Lab’ report, which found that consumers often find it impossible to compare complex products with multiple features. And the this can lead to bad money decisions and frustration with being locked into a contract that’s working out much more expensive than first thought.
In the past, mobile plans have been one of the biggest culprits for this type of bamboozlement, so it’s good to see Virgin Media placing a large emphasis on clarity, transparency and simplicity with its mobile offering.
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