Could we be about to see a pre-paid iPhone?

By Mark O’Neill

Italy could prove to be the turning point for the Apple iPhone. Vodafone and Telecom Italia have announced that they have both won contracts to bring the iPhone to Italy – the first time that two competing networks will sell the iPhone in the same country at the same time – and this may have a knock-on effect elsewhere in other iPhone markets.

Vodafone will also sell the iPhone in nine other countries where the customers prefer pre-pay phones instead of contracts – and we’re talking BIG countries here such as Australia and New Zealand, not poor Third World ones. So if Australia and New Zealand rolls out pre-paid iPhones to satisfy their customers, how long before they reach the US, UK and Europe? Not long I imagine. And how will Steve Jobs feel about his beloved iPhone being used with top-up pre-pay cards?

My own personal feeling is that pre-pay iPhones would actually do well here in Europe where sales are actually very disappointing and the price of an iPhone has been slashed very heavily to try to boost sales. Here in Germany, the price of an iPhone has plummeted from an initial EUR 400 down to EUR 100 and STILL they are not selling. But imagine if they were to be sold with a pre-pay card instead? I would immediately buy one and I’m sure others would too, if they weren’t handcuffed with an expensive long-term contract.

But with the Skype phone out and a Google Android phone due to come out soon, I can’t help but wonder if Apple have missed the boat. They may have had their moment and blew it by bringing out their phone with too high a price and too restrictive a contract. Now it’s Skype and Google’s turn to swoop in. What do you think?

Via Times Online

14 Responses to Could we be about to see a pre-paid iPhone?

  1. well the new iphone is coming out soon so everything may change AGAIN. while a skype or google phone may be pretty cool and/or cost saving, i don't know if it'll do so well. google maybe, but i don't know about skype. like a lot of things, it's all about the name. and apple has made a hell of a name for itself over the years because of the ipod and then it's computer line. to me at least, it's still hard to see google as anything other than a search engine. i know it has created other software and whatnot, but it's hard to get past that. i don't think i'm the only one that thinks like that either, but i've been wrong before. well, a lot. =P

  2. Hi, I was actually thinking about getting an iPhone in Germany, since I live in Denmark and up here they cost like 800€, but if I do, I won't be able to use my own Danish provider with it??

    • If you buy a phone here in Germany, it will be locked by T-Mobile and you will have to sign a VERY expensive T-Mobile contract. So if you take it back to Denmark, not only will you have to break the contract but you will also have to break the lock on the phone, then have to persuade a Danish provider to cover the unlocked phone (which they may not do).

      Since you are not a German citizen, T-Mobile may also decline to sell you the contract since they figure you may do a runner back to Denmark…

  3. iPhone… Hmm I got excited by all the hype pre-release. Then they announced the price. Excitement went down a bit. iPhone came out, felt it was a bit too over-hyped. Then I went and had a go on one. I was really disappointed. Now I don't want one any more :-/

    Still, you can go into an O2 store (in the UK) and get free net access until they chuck you out :-P *They have 2 or 3 out on display for you to have a go on)

  4. While I think a pre-pay iPhone is an eventual inevitablity, the handset will still be prohibitive because it will cost a fortune. In the UK we recently had a run where the iPhone was available at *only* £169 (about $340), but that's *only* that price with a £35/month ($70) contract, too. It sold out, as everyone knew it would.

    However, the money is in the contract, which lasts (I believe), for 18 months, so that's 18 x 35 = £630 ($1260).

    To bring even part of that income to the pre-pay market, they'll have to make the handset itself a real moneyspinner. That's how it works in pre-pay – you can buy very cheap 'top-up' handsets, but they're always bottom of the range. I would estimate a pre-pay iPhone – assuming it's the actual, fully-featured model, and not specialist for that market – will be around £500 ($1000). And the pre-pay market is typically made-up of people who can't afford or get the credit for a contract phone. So it wouldn't sell to anyone apart from a few.

    However, what would happen is iPhone crime would go through the roof. If you put that out there, and make it available to 'the people', but charge them out of the market, they'll be stealing them left, right and centre.

    Happy days. :)

  5. Interestingly Mark, you say that, you are not talking about poor third world countries, but big countries like Australia and New Zealand. As per statistics of number of cellphones in countries – Australia comes in at #29. New Zealand comes in at #72 ; whereas India comes in at Number 10.

    The telecom revolution in India/China have boomed like never before. I do agree that it is still a developing nation, but in one of our company's US visitor's words — "Man, you gotta go to the deserts of Rajasthan. There are villages without water, electricity, and good roads ; but my US based cell phone, with international roaming, had 4 bars signal strength". :-)

  6. "plummeted down to 100€" In Germany?? Where? shows the 8Gb model at 399€ and the 16Gb one at 499€….

    • T-Mobile (the iPhone provider in Germany) shops in the high street are slashing the cost of iPhones to get rid of inventory they can't move. I was in Berlin a few months back and some T-Mobile shops up there were selling iPhone's for 99 Euros. Obviously the cost of the contract was the same but the cost of the actual phone was slashed from 400 to 100. When I asked the sales clerk why the sudden drop, he sighed and said that sales were dead.

  7. Hello Guys I have a Few questions!!

    My husband and I are stationed in Germany.. If I do get an unlocked iphone, is it possible to be able to put a sim card in it to use prepaid minutes? They are selling very very cheap here but contracts are very pricey and not alot of mins come with it. Please help me!! :D

    • Shae – I haven't heard of anyone being allowed to put a pre-paid German SIM card into an iPhone. T-Mobile seems to be insisting on contracts for everyone because they are pushing the monthly data plans on everyone. This is what's stopping me from getting an iPhone.

      But don't take my word for it. Go to a T-Mobile shop and ask them if a pre-paid SIM card is possible. If I am wrong, please come back here and let me know. Then I will run out and buy an iPhone! :-)

  8. We already have iPhones on top-up cards on O2 in the UK. I don't understand why this is being greeted with such shock and horror every where else.

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