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O2 finds new way to bind iPhone users

Downgrade your tariff, lose Visual Voicemail

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O2 might yet refuse to unlock iPhones at the end of contract, but the operator has admitted that even customers who stay will have to do without Visual Voicemail.

O2 has confirmed to El Reg that customers who choose a cheaper tariff once they've paid off their iPhone won't be able to get Visual Voicemail, which remains a premium feature only available to those willing to sign up for 18 months at 35 quid a month.

Visual Voicemail - the ability to show a list of voicemail messages - was touted as a great innovation when the iPhone was launched, but it's also one that needs operator compliance and dedicated servers, and O2 has decided that those who opt for a cheaper tariff at the end of their iPhone contracts shouldn't be entitled to access.

Quite why O2 would be so bloody minded about it we are left to speculate - it could be a ploy to encourage customers to upgrade given they'll have to spend 35 quid a month anyway, or a conspiracy to encourage unlocking, and jailbreaking, to drain revenue from Apple, but most likely is that O2 has to pay Apple for every Visual Voicemail user, and O2 doesn't want to pay any more.

Especially as the capability is far from unique these days - Hullomail will put your voicemail into your e-mail, achieving the same thing, and other services provide similar functionality.

It hardly seems likely that many customers are going to pay £35 a month for the privilege of having official Visual Voicemail, but equally it's unlikely many customers are going to change networks due to the lack of it, so O2 avoids paying Apple a few quid while encouraging a few people to take on a new 18-month contract - seems an obvious decision when you look at it that way. ®

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