So the cat is finally out of the bag: Apple will partner with O2 for the launch of the iPhone in the UK. Am I excited? No. As a resident of the United Kingdom, my initial enthusiasm about the iPhone has waned quite a bit since its introduction in January.
The iPhone will be priced at £269 —or actually £269.99, if you call an O2 store—and will be only available on one of three price plans, O2 iPhone £35/£45/£55. That’s $538 US for the phone, and $70-110 per month in service fees.
The EDGE-based data element is unlimited, subject to “fair usage,” but O2’s EDGE coverage here is very limited: only 30% of the UK at present, the company says. To attempt to fix that, Apple is offering free unlimited public Wi-Fi at certain city locations. This was accomplished by partnering with “The Cloud,” a provider with 7,500 hotspots across the UK. After checking the ‘Cloud cover’ for Cambridge, it turns out that the city boasts 54 hotspots—the majority of them inside phone boxes, of all places, where you’re expected to sit outside with your iPhone and type away. It’s better to learn that many are in pubs, too, so finding a hotspot should be easy.
The iPhone cannot be bought in the United Kingdom without one of the three O2 contracts so for now, if you want one, you’ll have to accept being tied in for 18 months.
Though I have been keeping my options open in anticipation of iPhone since my Danger Sidekick II contract ended some months ago, that is something I am not prepared to do. So, I will not be switching from my current Samsung phone on a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariff, which allows for much less calling than the base iPhone plan, at a much lower price.
Much has been made about how a 3G-less iPhone will affect UK and other European users. While the lack of 3G on the iPhone may see people here not even bother thinking about the iPhone as a replacement for their current 3G phone, it would not have been a deal breaker for me. I found the existing GPRS speeds good enough when I was using the Danger Sidekick II to accept an EDGE-based phone as a middle ground before 3G. It would have been adequate for my use.
The thought of perhaps buying a US iPhone and bringing it back has crossed my mind, but the possibility of ending up with a glorified iPod touch, should any updates lock/cripple it, are a concern at the back of my mind. I could as well get a 16GB touch and stay with the Samsung using the Wi-Fi in the touch for those rare occasions I want Internet access on something with a larger screen than the D900’s. But with reports of mediocre iPod touch audio quality, I will be holding back for a later, better unit.
I can’t think of any time in the last 6 years of iPod ownership where I have not gone out and bought the latest model. The third generation did nothing for me, hence that gap in my iPod collection, and I see no reason to get the latest iPod classic or nano models, either. And while I was interested in the iPod touch when it was announced, the build quality is something I might cite as being a good reason to save my money until an updated version comes out.
So, sorry Apple, but there will be no switching me yet. I’ll have to look for different holiday gifts this year!