Buying a subsidized smartphone with a two-year contract has become routine in the mobile business, but that doesn't mean it's the only option out there: O2 has introduced an iPhone 4S lease plan with a one-year contract that allows customers to rent the phone as part of their monthly fee without paying for the device upfront. For £55 a month (about $86) you'll get the 16GB iPhone 4S, 750 minutes, unlimited text messaging, 500MB of data, tethering, phone insurance, and unlimited access to O2 WiFi hotspots in the UK. Or, if you need more space, the 32GB 4S will set you back an additional £10 per month with the same monthly allowances. Of course, if you give up the lease, you'll have to return your phone in good condition or face "substantial charges."
It's not hard to get your hands on a deeply discounted iPhone across much of Europe these days, but it's uncommon to get the latest model of any device without paying a couple hundred dollars upfront (or several hundred, if you're buying an unlocked phone). Hopefully unusual leasing plans like O2's will become more common, especially as flagship smartphones continue to get more expensive.