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UK phone users unhappy with 24-month contracts, but not enough to ignore them

A survey from Tesco suggests most mobile phone owners prefer shorter contracts with more upgrade options, yet the number of 24-month contracts has skyrocketed in recent years

A survey conducted by Tesco has found that mobile phone users -- so, everyone -- are unhappy with the sharp rise in the number of 24-month contracts in the last few years.

In 2008, shorter 12-month contracts made up 13.4 per cent of the market, 18-month contracts held 83.4 per cent of the market and 24-month contracts a minuscule 3.2 per cent. In just two years things have turned around, with 12-month deals sharing just 2 per cent of the market a year later, 18-month contracts down to 39 per cent and 24 months making up a massive 59 per cent of all mobile contracts.

The survey found that a huge 38 per cent of those asked felt their phone is considered out of date within a year of the contract start date, with 48 per cent of those with 18- or 24-month contracts spending £40 to £100 on a new handset rather than waiting for the renewal date to roll around.

Despite this, apparently only one in four of those asked would opt for a shorter mobile contract if they were readily available, and only a third of those surveyed said that length of contract is a key consideration when picking a deal. This makes us think the populace at large are unhappy to be paying more money for a longer period of time, but not so much they'll actually stop doing it.

This suggests to us that consumers are driven to get their hands on a particular mobile rather than a reasonable deal, as longer, more expensive contracts are generally reserved for desirable, high-end smart phones. Eighty per cent of those asked said that 12 months is the ideal contract length, because it offers more regular handset upgrades.

We completely agree, but we suspect people will keep shelling out for glossy devices regardless of the asking price, so it's up to networks to undercut each other to bring contract length down again. Tesco is the only network really championing the 12-month contract (small wonder that it comissioned this survey) and at the time of writing Tesco Mobile provides the cheapest deal if you want to bag yourself an iPhone 4 on a 12-month contract.

Are you happy to be tied in for longer if it means a cheaper upfront cost? Or do you think being tied to one provider with only one phone for two years is a bit much? Let us know in the comments.