Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The iPhone Is an iScam

Real Cost of iPhone: Service Plan Revealed

At long last the final shoe on iPhone has dropped: The cost of voice and data plans that you'll have to buy from AT&T when you purchase the device. The good news: It's not as bad as some had feared. The bad news: It's still going to cost you a pretty penny if you're used to paying $40 a month for a basic service plan.

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Here's the damage: $60 a month for 450 minutes. $80 for 900 minutes. $100 for 1350 minutes. If you need even more minutes, plans continue to climb up to $220 a month for a whopping 6000 minutes. The good news: All plans include unlimited email and web, rollover minutes, unlimited mobile-to-mobile, and 200 text messages a month. All except the cheapest plan include unlimited nights and weekends minutes; the cheapest plan includes a mere 5000 of those. Contrary to earlier rumors there is no voice-only option for the iPhone: Remember you need data service to do all the cool email/web/mapping business that makes iPhone an iPhone, otherwise you've pretty much got a pretty brick in your pocket that can play Avril Lavigne tunes.

Additional details are here.

Is this a good deal? Let's compare. AT&T's cheapest voice-only plan costs $40 a month for 450 minutes, 5000 nights and weekend minutes, and no data services at all. (Even text messages are about 15 cents a pop.) Adding $20 a month for unlimited web isn't a bad deal. For the $60 of the iPhone's cheapest plan, you can get AT&T's 900-minute plan with no data service.

Looking at it another way, AT&T's Messaging Unlimited plan (unlimited MMS/SMS messages) costs $20 a month extra. Its unlimited messaging and media plan (which gives you access to cellular video as well) costs another $40 a month. The company has a variety of data plans for web browsing phones. The closest to what the iPhone gets you is SmartPhone Max, at $30 extra per month.

Whew, that's a lot of numbers. Putting it all together, designing a comparable plan to iPhone's $60 service on AT&T with a non-iPhone device would actually cost about $70 a month. Believe it or not, iPhone service is actually a bargain!

On the other hand, $60 a month or more isn't cheap. Over the life of the phone that equates to $1,440. Add in the price of the phone and activation fees and the cheapest amount you'll spend on an iPhone over the next two years is $1,975. You can almost buy a brand new MacBook Pro for that outlay. And don't forget the cancellation fee you'll pay on your old phone...

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Overall I'm pleased. AT&T could have gouged consumers with a $100/month plan and few people would have flinched. Instead the company is offering an affordable option that should help to ease the sting of that initial $500 or $600 outlay. That said, I'm sure many will still find the plan too expensive. As always, I await your thoughts, opinions, and rants on the topic.

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