Wednesday, 24 June 2009 13:45

Vodafone unveils magic iPhone 3G S pricing and it's tether-fee free

As predicted, iPhone 3G S pricing from Vodafone is virtually identical to the pricing it unveiled for the HTC Magic Google Android phone earlier this month, at $0 upfront on a range of plans including unlimited voice and the happy surprise of fee-free tethering in contrast to Optus. What are the details?

With Vodafone offering the latest Android Google phone, the HTC Magic, at $0 upfront on a range of plans, it seemed obvious that the iPhone 3G S would likely be priced identically once it launches on June 26. 

This has happened, with the HTC Magic Android phone now actually available at a discount of the first three months free, a price drop in less than 30 days since the phone launched!

Still, when you’re up against the iPhone 3G S, anything is possible, especially as the iPhone does steal all the limelight, being the ever improving smartphone the rest of the cell phone world keeps trying to iKill without success.

Google Android OS 1.5 comes very close without yet any multi touch cigars, although they will come, and the true success of the Nokia N97 and WM 6.5 phones is yet to be seen over the coming weeks and months – and they’ll no doubt have multi-touch successors, too.

But all that’s in the future and today’s multi-touch king is the iPhone 3G S, and at Vodafone’s pricing, a continuing price war has been extended against Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and even Vodafone’s new merger parter, 3 Mobile.

Vodafone’s unlimited voice with 2GB plan at AUD $114 per month was meant to expire at the end of this month, the 30th of June, but a Vodafone spokesperson confirmed this plan has now been extended until the 31st of July.

This isn’t surprising because the unlimited option would either stop being offered or would rise in price, and you can’t launch with prices and then change some of them six days later.

But in theory, with the unlimited offer extended to the 31st of July, prices could change in 36 days, or not, with the deal extended again.

Whatever Vodafone does, it needs to be careful to ensure it doesn’t oversell its network capacity to too many users and resellers, as Optus did from the time of last year’s iPhone 3G launch onwards.

Details of Vodafone iPhone 3G S pricing and plans, along with a link to Telstra’s supposed “leaked” pricing plans and much more is on page 2 – please continue.

In response to a question on what specifically Vodafone is doing to ensure its network can cope with lots of new users, many of whom will likely be “unlimited voice” users, Vodafone generically assures us with words to the effect that it is always monitoring the network and the number of users, and works to keep it all running as smoothly as possible – let’s hope that’s what happens as the trend to unlimited voice calls accelerates.
Full pricing details are available at the Vodafone iPhone 3G S page, with the headline plans being as follows:

“Vodafone will offer the iPhone 3G S 16GB free on its $69 iPhone Cap (24 months), which includes $400 value, unlimited free Vodafone-to-Vodafone calls during the evening and on weekends and 1GB of included data downloads. 

“The iPhone 3G S 32GB is free on Vodafone’s $114 Cap (24 months), which includes unlimited calls and a massive 2GB data. Vodafone business customers can purchase the iPhone 3G S on the corresponding $69 Single Business Cap and $114 Unlimited Single Business Cap, 24 month contracts.”

Vodafone has also wisely chosen to avoid the imposition of any tethering charge, unlike Optus, allowing iPhone owners to use as much of their included data through their computer as desired.

In August 2009, Vodafone will start offering an addition 1GB of data per month at $24.95 per month, or 2GB of data per month at $29.95. This is because the iPhone itself uses a lot of data and if you want to do computer browsing on top of that you’ll probably want to take advantage of the extra data packs.

I asked whether larger data packs would be on the way, especially given that Vodafone is the company that brought 5GB of wireless broadband for $39 per month, but received another similarly generic answer along the lines of Vodafone always monitoring the situation to make sure of value and good performance for all, etc etc. 

Vodafone did confirm the “pay as you go” pricing incurred once you go past your chosen data package, which is that “customers are charged 12 cents per Mb, once they exceed the data allowance in their cap”, and that “customers are billed per Kb with a minimum session of 50Kb”.

So, what are the prepaid "upfront" prices, and what extra gimmicks is Vodafone unveiling to hype up the iPhype... I mean... iPhone 3G S launch? Final details on page 3, please continue...

As usual, prepaid iPhone plans and “upfront” prices are available, with the old iPhone 3G now selling for AUD $759 upfront, the 16GB 3G S going for $929 and the 32GB 3G S going for $1129 upfront.

Those tempted by prepaid are also being lured by a bonus $500 “Flexible Credit [which is] a $100 bonus Flexible Credit on each of [a user’s] next 5 Prepaid Recharges on $49, $79 or $149 Flexi-caps”, while those who sign up online to a post-paid contract before the end of this month (30 June) are being offered a “bonus $100 credit”.

Pulling out all the stops, Vodafone are also using its “celebrity amabassadors including Lara Bingle and Giaan Rooney” to hand deliver some of the first iPhone 3G S online orders, in an added publicity stunt to milk the new iPhone launch phenomenon for all it’s worth, with more than 600 Vodafone stores and dealers around Australia to offer the iPhone 3G S nationally.

Vodafone partner 3 Mobile will be selling the iPhone 3G S too, from July, as previously reported, but if you're a heavy caller and texter it's hard to go past Vodafone's $114 unlimited voice/text/mms and 2GB data pricing.

All we need to know now is Telstra’s pricing, and while MacTalk have uncovered a potentially accurate leak of predictably higher Telstra pricing due to its 850MHz network coverage and faster data speeds, it’s not yet confirmed.

Either way it looks like it’s Vodafone for price and good quality, and as usual, Telstra for the best quality and data speed, but the highest price, which probably won’t change until Apple delivers an iPhone 4G that works on 850MHz, 2100MHz and the Optus/Vodafone 900MHz 3.5G standard.

Until then, the iPhone 3G S is the king of the iPhone clan and the best you can currently get. Me? I'm still using my trust original iPhone 2G, now upgraded with the rather cool iPhone OS 3.0, the operating system the iPhone should have launched with in the first place!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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