Ok, so we now know for sure that there will be new iPhone firmware and hardware on July 11. We also know that Rogers and Fido (almost the same thing) will be offering the iPhone to Canadians. Also, the price will be $199 for 8GB and $299 for 16GB. No word on service plans and costs yet. except that the $199/$299 prices will be based upon a 3 year contract. I had to dig into the Investor Relations area of Rogers' site to find this, which seems to be the only specific mention of iPhone on the whole site. There is a teaser Flash ad on their main site, but it doesn't go anywhere or provide any details. Even searching their site for iPhone returns nothing. There is no mention on the Fido site that I could find. Kind of weird, considering both Rogers' and Fido's sites were completely hammered around the time of the Apple WWDC keynote yesterday, presumably with Canucks with their credit cards out wanting to find out details on the companies' iPhone options. I am left wondering a few things:
- Do Rogers/Fido really get it? Will they just do the minimum or will they really commit to iPhone? Sure, there is a huge amount of pent-up demand for the iPhone in Canada and Rogers/Fido will make gobs of money in spite of themselves. Apple has already created the awareness and will certainly continue to advertise like crazy. Even if Rogers/Fido just follow through on providing the device and offer some sort of service (for less than $100/mo), they will probably sell iPhones by the boatload. I would like to see them visibly promoting the iPhone (and not just in the murky bucket of smartphones) and come up with service offerings that match how people will want to use it.
- Why didn't Apple create a private branded mobile service, at least for the consumer market? Surely dealing with dozens of carriers across the planet has been an excruciating process that has slowed down the rollout and has probably harmed Apple's reputation due to frustrated customers. With the initial US AT&T launch, things were not too bad since AT&T was on board and created specific plans and marketing for the iPhone. With the latest iPhone release, AT&T seems to be backing off on this a bit. Apparently new iPhone customers won't have the simple set of service choices that made the initial iPhone purchase and activation process pretty simple for customers and was good value. If Apple had done a private branded thing, they would have been able to establish a set of offerings appropriate to the iPhone, and not had any of the brand dilution (and resulting customer confusion/dissatisfaction) caused by co-marketing with all the different carriers. In a way, this would be consistent with what Apple does via the iTunes store (sort of a common marketing/sales front end for multiple content providers).
- Why are the phones now subsidized? Didn't they sell well enough when they weren't? I realize that the subsidies are what is allowing the price to drop, but it seems to me it puts more control in the hands of the carriers, and less in the hands of Apple and its customers. Specifically, the carriers can decide what the terms of the service agreement are, which determine the effective price of the iPhone. Even if the "price" is $199, the details of the service offering could make it more or less affordable. It seems like the assumption is that people think of an iPhone just like any other mobile device and will expect to buy and pay for it the same way. I'm not convinced that this is the case, and I think carriers should approach it differently. The purchase of an iPhone has as much in common with fashion accessories and high-end personal electronics as it does with buying a BlackBerry. Personally, I would rather pay $500 for an unsubsidized phone that I own outright without a contract than $199 for a subsidized one. I may be able to buy one this way, but, unfortunately, I would probably have to settle for a crappier plan.
- What will the Rogers/Fido service plans look like? My current iPhone is on a Rogers PayAsYouGo account, which is fine since I don't really make that many calls. Also, I am happy enough using WiFi for data. It would be nice to have EDGE, but the cost goes up so much (I currently pay $20-30/month) that I haven't taken the plunge. I would end up paying extra for things that I get for free with PayAsYouGo. At the end of it all, to get a plan that includes everything I have now and a reasonable amount of data could be over $100/mo. If they can come up with a monthly plan for ~$60 all-in (taxes, access fees, levies, etc.) with maybe 500MB of 3G data/month, I would probably go for it. I won't hold my breath, but I'm curious to see what they come up with.
So, in conclusion, I am thrilled that iPhone is officially coming to Canada and I am looking forward to the new features of the 2.0 firmware, as well as the new hardware (especially GPS), but the jury's still out what the experience of new Canadian iPhone customers will be.
Update: The Roger press release is now linked to from their Flash ad and there is something similar on the Fido site. It still drives me nuts that they are not providing details of the plan(s) they will be offering. IMHO, people will want to give some thought to this in advance, so they are not forced to make a decision on the spot that they may be locked into for 3 yrs. For that reason, it would make sense to me that they would pre-announce the details of the plans so the people lined up on July 11 will know exactly what they want to buy.