I’ve heard stories for a while about how exorbitant it is to have an iPhone 4 in the USA on AT&T, so I decided to get my geek on and compare the roughly equivalent plans on AT&T’s network, and the network I’ve chosen to be on in Australia. I’ve put the prices for each category in the current US dollars given the exchange rate for today (25 Aug 2010). Not only are the US plans more expensive, but they’re a LOT more expensive. I’m amazed at how ‘optioned’ AT&T is with absolutely every feature seeming to attract a dollar value.
First up is the handset cost. Both offer the iPhone 4 in the 32GB variety with AT&T costing $US299 and Optus costing $US213, but AT&T also have a one off primary line activation fee of $36, and then you might get extra state taxes thrown in for a bonus. You then need a plan to make all those phone calls on, and these were a little harder to compare as AT&T plans are in minutes, and Optus is in dollars (but is around 600 minutes a month). So I grabbed the plan costing the same monthly amount as what I’m on here, with both offering free calls to other phones on the network, and no additional charges for STD calling nationwide. Optus do include international SMS’s in their monthly allowance, but this will also reduce the call time you have.
Data is included in the Optus plan at no additional cost, and they provide 2GB and free tethering for your $AU59. AT&T want $25 a month for 2GB, and will sting you for a further $20 every month for the privilege of using that data through your laptop. Really AT&T? It costs you that much to enable a setting in the phone so that users can use the data they paid for on another device?
SMS is a bone of contention for me after I visited the US back on 2009. Get this, if someone sends you a text message to your phone (something you do not have the option to accept or reject) you get charged for it. Yes, the sender still pays, but you pick up a “standard charge” to receive the text message. Normally this is around $0.10, but if you had a trigger happy mate on an unlimited text plan he could very quickly send you to the poor house by smashing you with text messages. What’s that, a question from the back row? Yes, I will tell you how to get around this, glad you asked. You pay AT&T an additional $20 a month for unlimited text messaging. Luckily in Australia, this is included for free in my plan, as well as the more expensive ones too. If I didn’t have unlimited SMS, could my trigger happy texting mate hit me with a huge bill? Not on your nelly, it doesn’t cost a cent to receive a text message in Australia, only send one. And that’s just how it should be.
I also have the added benefit of having a completely unlocked iPhone 4, so I can put any GSM carrier’s micro SIM into my phone, very handy for roaming internationally. AT&T will be kind enough to offer you roaming charges using affiliate networks in foreign countries, but you won’t be swapping out that SIM card any-time soon unless you jailbreak the iPhone.
So how does this all add up? Well, I’ve been kind enough to summarise it in a nice little table below (Australian dollars in parentheses) but the gist is that you pay 57.2% more for the handset initially, and 172.3% more for roughly the equivalent value in each plan.Exclusivity, while good for the provider is bad for the consumer. I guess we’re very fortunate here to have four carriers fighting for our dollar, and it makes for a very healthy market.