When my iPhone contract expired, I decided it was time to stop handing O2 wads of cash in return for not-very-much, and happened upon a mention of giffgaff in some forum or other.

The company does things a bit... differently compared with other mobile providers (despite being owned by and run on the O2 network). Their target market appears to be younger people, the "internet generation", and consequently they save a lot of money by confining their advertising to social media/word of mouth. Similarly, their support infrastructure comprises a very active community forum and a few email-only agents - no armies of call centre staff in the Philippines. They don't sell mobile phones and run an operation dedicated to SIM only pre-pay.

The result of all this is actually a sensible and low cost pre-pay tariff and suite of pre-pay bundles (or "goodybags" in giffgaff parlance). For instance, in-network calls are free, other calls cost 8p/minute, texts cost 4p, and 0800 numbers are, shock horror, free. You get free mobile internet on all £10+ goodybags, and in fact it's free for everyone up until the end of February. I found that they are by far the cheapest option for someone like me who doesn't use the phone a huge amount for talking, more for internet.

What I find interesting about giffgaff though is their business model. It is clearly driven by incentivising their user base to do the jobs of advertising and providing support. In effect the company outsources these functions to its members/users by paying them in the form of phone credit. You can request SIMs to hand out to your friends, and earn points by helping out on the forum. And you know what? It seems to be working very well...

Unfortunately when I joined up I was a little bit hasty and didn't read too much. Had I done, I'd have realised it's possible to get £5 free credit when you are recommended by a friend (they get £5 credit too). So if you want the credit, use this link.

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