As the summer holidays draw to a close, we look at new tariff options in the U.K., while 1H figures in France are like comparing apples and oranges.

Back to school. Three words designed to strike dread into the hearts of children in the U.K., particularly when they appear emblazoned all over shop displays from approximately three minutes after the start of the school holidays in July. (Much like the appearance of foil-wrapped Christmas chocolates in the supermarkets sometime in August, but don’t get me started on that…)

It’s finally here though. Sad-faced youngsters are making their final preparations for the return to education next week, while their parents make sympathetic noises and try their best not to let out that massive sigh of relief until after bed time.

There is some consolation for the youth of the U.K. though, in the form of a new mobile sub-brand unveiled by Vodafone this week, aimed squarely at young, data-hungry users.

The telco presented Voxi on Thursday, a SIM-only, contract-free service for under-25s who spend their days glued to messaging and social networking apps, and for whom voice and SMS is something their parents do. The crux of the offer is that users have unlimited access to certain apps – Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and the like – without eating into their data allowance.

Vodafone is not the first to offer zero-rated data services in the U.K. Rival 3UK presented Go Binge a couple of months ago, which gives free access to four streaming services, including Netflix and Deezer.

Looking only at the price tag, Voxi is cheaper, starting at £10 per month, while 3UK’s service starts at £13. However, the latter offers a bigger data bundle. You pays your money, you takes your choice…unless you’re over 25, in which case, no Voxi for you.

But if you’re over 25, you probably don’t have the spectre of ‘back to school’ hanging over you. So, swings and roundabouts…although again, if you’re over 25 you might want to give those a miss too.

Across the Channel, our French cousins are also preparing for la rentrée scolaire and the country’s mobile operators are also making headlines.

Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile both named themselves France’s leading mobile operator in terms of new customer additions this week, albeit based on different methodologies.

Bouygues Telecom was first out of the blocks with its 1H results announcement on Thursday.

"Bouygues Telecom is France’s leading operator in terms of mobile recruitment for the period between January 2016 and June 2017," the telco said.

It added 645,000 new customers in the first six months of this year, on top of its 1.11 million new connections last year, thereby averaging net adds of close to 292,000 per quarter over the period.

As expected, Free Mobile made a similar claim on Friday when parent company Iliad posted its latest figures.

The telco added 440,000 new customers in the first half of the year, including 200,000 in Q2, "making Free Mobile the leading recruiter of mobile subscribers for the 22nd consecutive quarter," it said.

Bouygues Telecom’s Q2 figure was greater at 282,000, but its stats cover all SIM cards, including M2M. Indeed, its figures suggest that M2M additions were a key growth driver in the first half of the year, accounting for around 400,000 of its net adds.

Bouygues Telecom appears to be winning the ARPU race though.

Its monthly average revenue per user, excluding M2M and free SIM cards, stood at €22.3 in Q2, down slightly on the previous quarter and year-ago quarter; ARPUs have hovered between €22 and €23 since late 2015.

Iliad did not disclose its mobile ARPU, but a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests a figure of around €14.

There was good news for both companies when it came to financials though.

Bouygues Telecom posted a 6% rise in revenues to €2.43 billion in 1H and turned in a net profit of €122 million after reporting a loss in the year-ago period; the telco returned to a full-year net profit in 2016 after a series of losses.

Iliad, meanwhile, reported 7% revenue growth for the same period to €2.64 billion, while its profit grew 22.1% to €232.6 million.

So, while at first glance it looks like we’re comparing apples to oranges (or mixing cabbages with carrots as I believe they say in France – can anyone confirm that for me?), perhaps it would be fairer to say we’re comparing a bag of apples with a similarly-sized box of apples.

Speaking of which, Apple named the date for the iPhone 8 launch this week. It’s 12 September. Oh, the excitement, kids!