Opinion: Thoughts on the iPhone's UK arrival

Editor’s Note: The following article is excerpted from blog entries at Macworld UK. For more blog posts—including video from Tuesday’s Apple event, visit Macworld UK’s blog page. ]

On EDGE

So, Apple has finally announced the details for the iPhone launch in the UK.

In a nutshell, it’s £269, with a £35, £45 or £55 per-month contract, unlimited internet is included on all service plans—which means that the differentiating factor will be inclusive text and call time.

There’s a fair usage account of 1,400 pages per day, which is some serious finger tapping. A Macworld challenge for the new year might be to attempt to breach it, just to see what happens. Probably a warning letter from O2 to seek professional and medical help.

On the downside there’s no 3G support, which means you’ll have to choose between being an early adopter that gets an iPhone in November, and waiting till the second generation model with 3G is launched (sometime early next year if predictions are correct). Not as big a sting as the recent price-drop that hit US customers, but still worthy of consideration.

That’s a tough call, made even tougher by the utilisation of the Edge network, which will only have 30 percent U.K. coverage when the iPhone launches from O2 in a month’s time. That’s good news for those of us who live in London (except for when we visit our families out in the sticks) but pretty rubbish for everybody else).

When you’re in an area with no EDGE support you will—I believe—have access to the internet via the unfeasibly slow GPRS system.

The upshot of this is that, outside of a Wi-Fi zone, you’ll be pretty much limited to e-mail and messaging on the iPhone. Although Steve Jobs did claim that the eminently useful Google Maps functions very well under Edge, and it may also do so under GPRS.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and in this case it’s The Cloud that’s suddenly revealed it’s worth.

Subscribing to The Cloud gives you pan-European Wi-Fi access at over 7,500 HotSpots. These include whole areas such as Canary Wharf and City Of London, venues such as football clubs (Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea); public transport links (First Great Western Trains, BAA, Liverpool John Lennon Airport); and hotel, cafes and restaurants (Best Western, Holiday Inn, Inn Keepers Lodge, Espresso House and last—but certainly not least—McDonalds).

A subscription to The Cloud network (formally £11.99 per month) is included with every price plan with the iPhone. Sure, it’ll be included with all O2 service plans for other phones too, but it lends credence to Steve Jobs’ assertion that WiFi is the best way forward for mobile internet access.

The only disappointment in today’s announcement was the November 9 launch date. It’s been a while since Steve Jobs said: “And it’s on sale now.” Even though we’d heard the rumour of a November launch, deep down I wanted to walk out of the Apple Store with my own iPhone.— MARK HATTERSLEY

Is the price right?

When I heard that Apple had dropped the price of the iPhone in the US by $200, I smugly thought that Apple had dropped the price from $599 (£300) to $399 (£200) in order to pave the way for a more reasonably priced iPhone in the U.K.

Our mobile networks often swallow the whole cost of the handset, giving U.K. customers a free phone when they sign up to a contract. For example, the HTC Touch handset is available on Orange through the Carphonewarehouse for free to users who pay £35 a month for 18 months. I thought maybe the price drop might have been to make the phone a more attractive proposition to our mobile networks, and hoped that it meant that the phone price would be subsidised or even free.

Unfortunately this is not the case. O2 isn’t swallowing the cost of the phone at all. In fact, the iPhone will cost U.K. consumers £269 plus the £35 to £55 monthly contract.

You’ll also have noticed that £269 is more expensive than the equivalent £200 US consumers have to pay. According to Apple’s Steve Jobs, the extra cost is mainly VAT, and a bit of buffer because “it’s more expensive doing business in the U.K.” (where’ve I heard that before?). Whatever the reason, that’s a lot of money over the 18 months the contract lasts for.

But the iPhone is more than a phone, and, as such people, do place a value on the device. Most of the people we polled at Macworld.co.uk said they would be happy to pay for the iPhone. A quarter of the 2,589 voters were happy to pay £200 to £300 for the iPhone, and 10 percent would pay more than £300. Just over a fifth said they would pay £100 for the iPhone and another 10 per cent would pay £50. A third wanted the iPhone to be provided for free with the monthly contract.

The results of the poll show that a significant number of Macworld readers would pay the £269 asking price for the iPhone.

However, when you consider that before the price drop the phone would have cost us maybe as much as £369 it becomes apparent that at that price the phone really would have priced itself out of our market.

So given that fact, I still think that Apple knocked the price of the iPhone down because of us. Makes me feel a bit better about the extortionate amount they are asking for it anyway.— KAREN HASLAM

[ Mark Hattersley is the editor of Macworld UK. Karen Haslam is Macworld UK’s deputy editor. ]

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