Vodafone does 12-month smart phone rental, but is it worth it?

Vodafone has a new programme that lends you a phone for 12 months. We crunch some numbers to see if it's a good deal.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
2 min read

Vodafone's new 'Red Hot' phone-rental service lends you an iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 or Samsung Galaxy Note 2 on a 12-month deal. Sounds great -- who wants a phone for two years? -- but the monthly line rental is more, and at the end of the year you won't own the phone. So is it worth it?

The upfront cost of Vodafone Red Hot phones is lower, and free in some cases. There's a full breakdown here, but for example let's say you get the Samsung Galaxy S3 16GB, which is free up front but costs a hefty £47 per month.

The Red Hot tariffs get you unlimited calls and texts, 2GB of data per month and insurance, and -- for the S3 -- would set you back £564 in total over one year.

Vodafone offers the 16GB Galaxy S3 with no upfront charge on a 24-month tariff that costs £42 per month and also gets you unlimited calls and texts with 2GB of data. Over two years that'll cost £1,008, and if you add insurance on top (£10 per month) you're looking at £1,248 -- more than double the Red Hot option. Yowza!

On the face of things then, the 12-month rental option works out the same cost, but with more flexibility. This is just a rough test, of course -- you may find other phones or networks offering particularly tasty bargains, and if you spot any, do drop us a note in the comments.

No rooting

There are some caveats with rental. First, you don't own the phone, so you can't sell it, and if you return it damaged, you'll have to pay. £75 covers 'Grade B' damage, which means the phone "has deep scratches, chips or dents to the phone, the ports are worn or there's water damage".

If you return the phone with a "non-approved operating system" you could be charged between £375 and £425 on return, a whopping cost for a bit of Android tinkering. Those who wish to root their phones take note -- this service is definitely not for you.

If your phone is damaged you can always claim on the included insurance before sending it back, though there's a £50 excess. You also miss out on the extra bit of cash you could generate by flogging your phone, though at the pace smart-phone tech is moving, don't expect to earn much for a Galaxy S3 in 2014.

Finally, the real kicker is that only the iPhone 5, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 are available on this tariff. It seems like a pretty reasonable deal at first blush, but it'll need more choice to win over many shoppers.

Are you tempted by phone rental deals? Tell me in the comments or on our Facebook wall.