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Sunday, August 24, 2008

SingTel tears into iPhone customers, but not as badly as 3 HK

When SingTel announced its iPhone-specific iFlexi plans, I proclaimed to a few friends that it was ripping off its customers. Coming from cynical, capitalistic Singapore, that wasn't too hard to not believe. I admittedly had not done my calculations at that time, and based that proclamation merely on SingTel's lack of an unlimited data plan (because the iPhone is more of an Internet device than a mere handphone).

A day after its launch, I decided to take a step back from the hype and hoopla and answer that tiny little question:

How big of a hole is SingTel tearing from its iPhone customers?

It turns out that while the hole by SingTel is bigger than the one by AT&T, it's not as big as the one by 3 HK. (And -- surprise! -- Rogers isn't too shabby either.)

However, this assumes that you transfer no more than 3GB of data a month (see details below). Considering all of the Internet-intensive iApps that are available, it is likely that the iPhone will be transferring data quite often. And even if these data packets are small in size, as the saying goes, little drops of water form a mighty ocean.

I browsed the websites of four operators, namely SingTel (Singapore), AT&T (USA), Rogers (Canada) and 3HK (Hong Kong), for their iPhone price plans. These operators have exclusive sale of the iPhone, therefore they are effectively monopolising the iPhone market within their home countries and do not need to engage in a domestic price war.

Based on the listed plans and bundled usage, I worked out the maximum cost that a customer would pay for the following:

  • two-year contract* (SingTel, AT&T and 3 HK)
  • 3GB of data** (SingTel)
  • 2,200 minutes of talk time (3 HK)
  • 2,500 SMS (Rogers***)
* Rogers states that its iPhone plans are available with three-year contracts, though whether that means its customers must sign up for three years is not apparent.
** AT&T offers unlimited data with its plans. 3 HK offers unlimited data with one of its plans.
*** after including the C$15 value pack.
(bracketed notes indicate which operators bundle that maximum use)

Rogers also allows customers to mix-and-match from non-iPhone-specific plans, but there are too many permutations for me to calculate by myself. (I pity the customer who does!)

Here's how the four operators stack up when looking at the least that a customer would have to pay based on the above four items:

OperatorSingTelAT&TRogers3 HK
PlaniFlexi PlusNation $69.99 + $5 SMS plan$60 + $15 value pack$498 unlimited data$268
Total with iPhone 8GB (SG$)$4,743.94$4,213.51$4,081.94$2,229.12$6,389.87
Total with iPhone 16GB (SG$)$4,902.94$4,355.51$4,216.94$2,253.96$6,533.87

And here's how they compare based on the most to be forked out:

OperatorSingTelAT&TRogers3 HK
PlaniFlexi ValueiThree Plus*Nation Unlimited$115$115 + $15 value pack$328
Total with iPhone 8GB (SG$)$6,147.39$9,728.13$5,487.96$5,091.82N/A
Total with iPhone 16GB (SG$)$6,307.39$9,728.13$5,629.96 N/A$5,247.07$6,586.07

* I included SingTel's non-iFlexi plans although they're not especially for the iPhone, because SingTel still provides them.

Take a look at my compiled findings.

Another way to look at these plans is to see how big of a difference they compare, using AT&T's expected costs as the benchmark.

Least expensive iPhone plan comparison:
SingTel iPhone least expensive plans comparison

Most expensive iPhone plan comparison:
SingTel iPhone most expensive plans comparison

So I've been proven somewhat wrong. SingTel's iFlexi plans are not necessarily grossly more expensive than, say, AT&T's. When comparing against the other Asian economy powerhouse, i.e. Hong Kong, SingTel's iFlexi plans are actually quite competitive. On the other hand, if you use the Internet a lot, expect to burn a very, very large hole in your pocket.

Aside: Rogers appears to be the least expensive overall, which is surprising considering all of the flak it had received for being heavily overpriced. Perhaps I was looking at its revised plans.

Other notes:
  1. I did not include comparisons of free/trial services, e.g. Caller ID, because these vary operator-by-operator.
  2. 3 HK will rebate a portion of the iPhone's price after 24 months, but I didn't understand how it works, so I didn't factor that into my calculations.
  3. 3 HK requires customers to bundle at least one value-added service, so I picked its $18 SMS pack.


decourlande said...

People here (Atlanta) are buying into incredibly expensive plans to get the iPhone too.


Yuhui said...

I guess it's the must-have factor of the iPhone that drives people to buy such plans.

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