3 has quietly switched out its 12-month deals for 6 month terms instead, although 18- and 24-month offers are still available.

The six month deals appear as part of the Mix and Match 300 and 500 offers, similar to T-Mobile's Flext packages in offering a changeable amount of minutes and texts.

Both the 6-month deals come with a free phone, although only the Nokia 6120, the INQ1 and the Skypephone S2 are on offer from the £15 and £18 a month deals.

With high-end smartphones increasingly commanding longer contracts, 3 is clearly positioning itself as an easy step up from pre-pay for customers who are scared of the idea of being tied down.

12 months bad, 6 months good

"The buying habits of our customers tell us that, on the whole, the 12-month contract has lost popularity in a market where better value is offered by longer term 18- and 24-month contracts," 3 said in a statement.

"We've also introduced one-month contracts on handset and Mobile Broadband for those customers after good value but with a minimal commitment. Due to a fall in demand, we've decided to remove 12-month contracts from our range."

With the race to create the 'perfect' converged device rushing along at breakneck speed, operators subsidising the handset have to lock customers into longer term deals in order to recoup the money.

It could be that there will be a backlash from consumers not wanting to spend so long with a new handset, so 3 could be well placed benefit.