Aussie telcos bend over for the iPhone

Photo of iPhoneAustralia’s mobile phone carriers may not completely grok Apple’s new iPhone 3G, but they know it’ll bring them customers — because they’re all scrambling to be Steve Jobs’ iPhone bitches. It’s an embarrassing spectacle.

Three carriers have announced packages available from tomorrow: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. (Presumably 3, who’ve been asking their customers to beg for iPhones, haven’t bent over far enough.) There’s a comparison over at

According to my sources, all three Aussie telcos have bent over even further than US carrier AT&T. Apple already demands a bigger subsidy from carriers than other smartphone manufacturers. In the US, for example, AT&T pays Apple US$325 per unit compared with the usual $200 or so. However two individuals working within Telstra confirm that all three telcos offering iPhone here are also paying Apple an ongoing percentage of revenue. AT&T has escaped that revenue-sharing deal, but not the Aussies — and that’s presumably reflected in the somewhat disappointing plans on offer.

All three Australian carriers have missed the key point. Yes, iPhone can make phone calls. But its true role is a pocket-sized internet-connected computer.

In May, by my count 80% of the audience at Australia’s Mobile Content World conference were so out of touch they’d never even seen an iPhone screen. “They were deer in the iPhone’s headlights,” wrote entrepreneur Rand Leeb-du Toit. “The full browser experience is going to shake their businesses to their foundations.”

Overseas, data from the first year of iPhone users bears this out. They conduct 50 times more Google searches than other phone users. In Germany, they consume 30 times more data.

Australian iPhone plans are all skewed towards cheap voice calls and expensive data.

As John Allsop’s analysis points out, on Telstra’s data packages just looking at the home page would cost you $8!

When Vodafone release its pricing yesterday morning, comments on Twitter were scathing. “Vodafone gives you 5GB on modem. but all telcos have weighted plans for calls, not data. Wrong wrong wrong,” said one. “Nice to see Vodafone continuing the theme of gouging iPhone customers,” said another. And: “Boo Vodafone Australia iPhone plans, Optus here I come!”

Without a doubt, Apple’s new iPhone 3G is sexy. It will be a huge hit. But it does have flaws.

Just one of the Top 10 reasons to hate the iPhone 3G is the sealed-in battery. A year from now, when you no longer get a full day’s usage from one charge, your choice is $100-odd for Apple to replace the battery or $199 for the new model. Like the iPod, consumer replacement cycles get ever shorter, and the mountain of toxic used electronics grows — just like Apple’s profits.

[Note: This article is based on material I wrote for Crikey yesterday and today.]

5 Replies to “Aussie telcos bend over for the iPhone”

  1. Hejdo Stil,
    Have you seen this:

    Telco 2.0 do a comprehensive, and in-depth review of up-coming trends in telecommunications on a regular basis. Thier analysis of the iPhone business model is … interesting, and suggests that 3 is possibly making a hard-headed business decision, that may pay big dividends for them.

    3 are tying themselves closer to the Symbion platform (Nokia smart-phones) and are also watching the Android project very closely from a local and Global perspective as a potential iPhone contender.


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