By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm
Good news, sort of: Boy Genius Report is reporting that AT&T is about to start selling iPhones 3Gs that don’t require signing a contract, an option which it said it was going to get around to offering all along. They won’t come cheap, though: Folks who are willing to sign two-year contracts can get an 8GB iPhone 3G for $199 or a 16GB one for $299, but the same phones sans contract will apparently be $599 and $699 respectively.
Of course, those prices have a tinge of deja vu to them–when the original iPhone was announced in January of 2007, an 8GB one went for…$599. (The 4GB model was $499, and 16GB iPhones didn’t yet exist.) But that $599 8GB iPhone required a two-year contract, and was a distinctly lesser handset–no 3G broadband, no GPS, and no third-party apps. Today’ $599 iPhone is a better device with fewer strings attached.
But it isn’t really commitment-free, since it’s still locked to AT&T, and apparently only existing AT&T customers will be able to get one–and only one per line. Unless you’re planning to unlock your phone without anyone’s approval, you’re still effectively agreeing to remain an AT&T customer–and therefore turn over $1400 for service over the next two years, in all likelihood–until such time as AT&T and Apple decide it’s okay to unlock iPhones.
(And I’m still unsure why they object to the practice, if consumers are willing to pay an unsubsidized price. I’ve bought several other models of phone from AT&T at full price because the company would cheerfully unlock them if I asked; just what makes the so that’s different?)
Of course, Apple does sell unlocked, truly commitmentless iPhones in countries where it’s required to do so. When I was in Spain last month, I saw an unlocked 16GB iPhone 3G for 799 Euros, or $1075 U.S, at an airport electronics shop. My buying advice is simple: YOU’D BE NUTS TO SPEND OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS ON AN IPHONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN A NEW MODEL IS LIKELY JUST MONTHS AWAY!!! (Whew.)
Anyhow, I might consider a $599 iPhone 3G if I could unlock it without fear of technical glitches or reprisal from Apple–I just hate contracts, and travel overseas enough that the idea of being able to pop in a cheap local SIM is mighty appealing. But I’d wait until June or so to see what Apple has waiting in the wings. And I’m guessing it isn’t a given that any new iPhones will be immediately available at an unsubsidized price.
I feel a T-Poll coming on…