Back in December 2006, I wrote a post about cancelling my decade-old Orange UK phone contract, in favour of Three. Now I'm off again. I finally gave into the lure of iPhone. As a Mac (power?) user for eight years, and owner (and destroyer) of many of their products, the absence of iPhone in my life is fairly conspicuous. I always swore that I wouldn't buy the iPhone 2G, though.
On the other hand, I swore I wouldn't buy any iPhone while it was still tied to O2. I don't like the fact that Apple don't offer an unlocked iPhone, but it looks like it's going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. I guess my ideal vision would be an Apple MVNO, although I bet tariffs would be sky-high for that, but the paper the bills were printed on would be very crisp (and probably laser-etched aluminium sheets)
The iPhone 3G launch has coincided with the end of the half-price tariff offer I had at Three: it was basically £15/month for 18 months for 300 minutes of calls. A month or two ago, it upped to £30, and I had to decide whether to renew or to take the opportunity to switch to iPhone.
My reason for leaving Orange was mainly the fact that I wasn't feeling the love anymore, and I felt my tariff was far too high. I'm a fairly light mobile user, and sometimes I think I might be better of with a PAYG.
My experience with Three has been fairly good. Coverage hasn't been quite as good as Orange, but good enough for my purposes. I've had a couple of dropped calls, and the battery life has been terrible. I'm fairly sure this is due to the fact that Three is 3G only, and the Nokia 6280 I had really wasn't too good at 3G power consumption. At least with Orange, I kept it switched to 2G most of the time.
I've never liked the look of O2, and the mess they've made of this launch doesn't fill me with confidence. The starting tariff for iPhone is double the price that I could otherwise get on Three for a lot more minutes, and I'm not really a fan of smartphones anyway. I think I might be able to have some fun coding that thing, though. I've got a history of writing games for web and Palm, and some experience with writing for OS X, I'd be dumb not to have a go with the iPhone.
So, I think my new tariff is going to be the iPhone £30/month one. It's a reduction to 75 minutes a month, although looking at my past few Three bills, I've only been hitting about 50 minutes a month maximum, so there shouldn't be a problem. I'm not sure how much I'll use data, but when it comes down to it, £15 extra for 18 months is actually only £300, which I should be able to make back with iPhone-related work.
Decision made. Unfortunately, getting an iPhone 3G seems not as easy as everyone hoped. In particular, I have a client who's spitting nails that he's unlikely to get an upgrade to his launch-day iPhone 2G tomorrow morning. O2 and Apple have monged this launch up pretty badly. I mean, anyone with any sense will see that the second-most-anticipated mobile phone launch ever (after the iPhone 2G, that is) would be popular. Secondly, a simultaneous launch in 24 countries? Free upgrades for existing users? How could this not end up a fiasco?
I can understand if they can't actually make the damn things quick enough. However, why no proper pre-order system? My MacBook Pro took almost a month to arrive after I ordered it, and while I watched the package tracking widget like a hawk for that whole month, at least I knew it was on its way. O2, on the other hand, say "whilst we are confident that all customers who want iPhone 3G will get one by the end of this summer, initial supply is limited and will be for some weeks.", and then expect you to just check back every so often to see if they've got their shit together yet.
My client spent a lot of this morning on the phone to O2 and Apple Retail. They're giving conflicting answers on upgrades, with Apple Regent Street almost denying anything's happening tomorrow, while Apple Bluewater are quite happy to talk. O2 don't seem to have a clue when anyone's going to get a phone. Meanwhile, I'm not going to trek 10 miles into Bristol at 8.02am just to be told that they don't have any.
So, off to the Carphone Warehouse's website, hoping that they actually might have their act sorted better than O2 and Apple. Looks like they have them in stock for delivery tomorrow morning. Fine.
Back to Three for the PAC code, then. Dial 333 for customer services. I talked for 20 minutes to a nice chap in India, who called me Mister Jidden, and tried to convince me that the Nokia N95 8-gee-bee is a better phone than the iPhone. It has a five-gee-pixel camera compared to the iPhone's two-gee-pixel camera, and it comes with a FREE two-five-six-emm-bee memory card! (I think he's reading from a script here)
Anyway, apparently, the lack of a replaceable battery is the main reason I shouldn't buy an iPhone, according to them.
I explained that I specifically need an iPhone to write software for, and Symbian on the N95 just doesn't cut it. Would I like to keep the Three contract as a "spare"? No. They could offer me a new tariff for £15/month, and it's special! 300 minutes a month, and free voicemail! ...but that's the same as my current tariff was up until they doubled the price a month ago.
Thanks, but no thanks. I need an iPhone.
"Well, Mister Jidden, no problem. You're one of our most special "elite customers", and I can give you an extra offer: I can reduce that tariff to £12!"
It's not an iPhone though.
How about if someone else in my family wants to take the same offer? My parents spend about £1.50 on their phones each month, thanks to the Orange Value Promise price-matching Virgin Mobile years ago, so No.
I couldn't really stop the guy... he was on a roll with his script, and I didn't mind letting him go through it. I needed the PAC number, and the guy was nicer and making more of an effort than Orange did back in 2006.
Got the code by SMS a couple of minutes afterwards, and plugged it into the Carphone Warehouse website. A short credit check later, and I get a text saying it'll be delivered on my delivery date... tomorrow, presumably.
Oh well. In conclusion, Three's okay. I'd actually go as far as to recommend them to others. They're certainly cheaper than Orange and from what I can tell, the other networks too. I'd be happy to stay with them, especially since my piddlingly small tariff seems to qualify me as "elite", but they don't do iPhones, unfortunately.
I just figured out why I might be "elite", other than spending most of my pre-teen years playing 3D space games on the BBC Micro... I did a couple of "Refer a Friend"s to Three, earning £30 (two months' tariff!) each time. Either that, or everyone's elite if they're buying an iPhone.
Anyway. My eyes will be burning holes in the doormat tomorrow morning from about 7am until that shiny box arrives. Shiny things. Pretty.