Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The iPhone 3GS and the crazy Vodafone circus

By Benedict Wee

Vodafone released their iPhone 3GS price plans today and it's no surprise that they're still charging way too much for way too little. And I'm not the only one who thinks that.

To gather the collective rage of Kiwis over Vodafone's asinine pricing structure, NZ tech forum Geekzone started a thread where they could vent their grievances and share information on alternate methods to attain Apple's new mobile and after reading its 14 (and still growing) pages I realized I needed to chronicle the ludicrousness of Vodafone and how they're handling the sale of the iPhone 3GS.

My feelings ran across a range of emotions when reading the forum. From empathic anger at the prices, plans and red tape to the hopelessness of Vodafone's dictatorship, finally arriving at amusement from (Vodafone's External Manager) Paul's sad attempts to justify aforementioned red tape. The following is a list of ridiculous claims that I've gathered from the forum and I will continue to update with more information when it is available.

1) The iPhone 3GS is available without a contract but you have to purchase it online.

This got many forum members mad. They couldn't understand why they weren't able to purchase the mobile by walking into the store. Paul then gave this explanation:

He claims that there are too many iPhones being bought in NZ and then shipped offshore and since Vodafone doesn't lock the phone it makes them vulnerable to such antics.

Really Paul? New Zealand is one of the most expensive retailers of contract-less iPhones in the world and you're afraid that people will buy them to make a profit overseas? That's bullshit.
And they continue digging their hole deeper..

2) Paul calls people who resell the iPhone overseas pirates.

Now it's been awhile since I've looked up what a pirate is/does so I decided to get the definition from the greatest online repository of knowledge: Wikipedia.

Nope, I don't see any "reselling of iPhones to make a profit" under the Pirate definition. People who do such stuff are called entrepreneurs. Stupid entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs nonetheless. You would think that this is the end of the "buy iPhone online story" but it gets worse.

3) Paul then proceeds to say that the iPhones are VERY valuable because they are the only ones in the world (that he knows of) that has unlocked iPhones.

At this point you know that he is either lying and thinks you're an idiot or has no idea what is going on in the rest of the world. Everyone with an internet connection knows that there are countries out there that prohibit phone locking. And if you don't, google it. They include Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan etc.. and this is only the Asia-Pacific region! That does not include Vodafone's other european branches which also offer unlocked iPhones like Greece, Italy, and the Czech Republic.

This excuse is very weak and it gives a bad impression whichever way you want to look at it. You'd expect a telecommunications manager to know that there are parts of the world that prohibits phone locking and his company's other branches overseas are offering the same unlocked phones as well. And of course he does. So that just leaves the "he is lying" option which effectively turns him into noting but an arrogant and dishonest PR mouthpiece.

And for the coup de grace..

4) Paul then gives a list of international iPhone carriers, saying that Australia telcos lock their phones too and doesn't bother reading the column next to it.

After the previous post about being the only carrier in the world to offer unlocked iPhones forum members began to list examples of countries which didn't, most citing our neighbors across the Tasman. Paul then offered a link to Apple's support page saying that there is a tick under the "Locked to Carrier" column for all 3 telcos in Australia which means they're locked. What he failed to see was the "Carrier offers authorized unlocking" column NEXT TO IT which was ticked as well.

First you tell us you're the only country that carries unlocked iPhones then you show up with a link that contradicts your previous statement then you fail to read the column on your right which defeats said original statement. What the hell dude?!

So you would like to vilify Vodafone for their very lame excuses but maybe they're it's not their fault. Maybe it's Apple who made them take up this draconian scheme.

Nope. It's a Vodafone decision. Paul says that their contract is with Apple to sell iPhones in New Zealand, not Mogadishu/London/Melbourne. So Vodafone NZ does not care nor bother to look past our shores to gauge the open market which is easily accessible via the internet and just create whatever red tape they want even though they risk frustrating consumers and chasing them away from the brand altogether.

This whole debacle reeks of conceitedness, dishonesty and a total disconnect from Vodafone to what Kiwis want. Just because we live in a corner of the world doesn't mean we're unable to see how much you're trying to overcharge us and best of all, we can do something about it. It's not entirely difficult to get a cheaper iPhone 3GS out there, in fact it's pretty easy. And considering the fact that jailbreaking and unlocking an iPhone is equally easy, our options have gotten significantly bigger. If you refuse to listen to what Kiwis want and make it worse by boasting about it with badly supported claims and inane PR ramble you'll just lose loyal customers to current and future competition.

I leave you with another example of Vodafone's pompousness as evidenced from Twitter:

To read the whole forum on the iPhone 3GS price plans visit Geekzone.


  1. Hi Ben, would have been nice if you'd let me know you were posting this. Usually happy to discuss the issues.

    You have my details.

  2. Get a grip, it is only a phone. You have way too much time. If you don't like the pricing, buy it overseas, or wait for telecom to start selling it.. It has overheating problems anyway, so I would steer clear for a while. ipod touches are way better anyway, cheaper, and the new version will have a camera, and you don't have to sign your life away.

  3. Hello Anonymous,

    This is also a PR problem. If there's bull somewhere someone should talk about. It's what I was taught in Mass Comm skewl.

    And yeah, I've recommended finding other alternatives too but if yr fellow Kiwi is not being heard and patronized don't ya think someone should stand up for him?

  4. Hi Paul. I think people have tried to get solutions to Vodafone's exorbitant pricing schems but to no avail.

    I've been waiting anxiously for news of the plans but now that I see them, I will import a phone from overseas as opposed to giving Vodafone any of my money.

  5. This is an interesting glimpse into the whole sorry affair and shows an impressive lack of respect in VFNZ's handling of it all. At best, Vodaphone's tactics seem aimed at making things difficult for the handset only market. In that case, I'm not sure why Paul doesn't just admit that more money is made from plans so the sale of handsets is being restricted. I guess the bean counters figured the people wanting handset only to take to Telecom where they can get better 3G coverage are worth losing for the extra contracts they will pick up by those desperate to get hold of a phone. The "sold out" signs on the website are no surprise. For me, I can't be bothered to import from overseas so VFNZ will make their monopoly profits on the phone, but they can kiss goodbye to any further revenue.

  6. What makes any of you think this is something Vodafone decided to do?

    What, wait until the last minute, then change things AFTER they've already put in place plans to let resellers offer the phones...?

    Apple are the ones pulling the strings here. Apple's the one that knew about the prices Vodafone wanted to charge and Apple's the company that decided too many phones were going overseas.

    Try to look beyond your fanboi love affair with Steve, OK? Apple's playing with the market - how else do you explain Telecom not having the phone?

  7. Hello Anonymous,

    What makes you think it's something Vodafone had no choice in then?

    What makes you think Apple is pulling the strings here when they've sold their other products at a similar price around the world? We've got evidence and the history that Vodafone has tired to sell the iPhone at a high price before ($250/month for a $199 16GB iPhone 3G) and this doesn't address the PR nonsense spouted by them which this post is about.

    You seem to be ignoring that bit. Maybe you are the Vodafone fanboi. See I can label you too. It's easy to troll, especially when no one knows your name. It's much more difficult to show evidence to support your theories.

    Telecom does not have the iPhone for now, it's not like they won't get it ever. And if Apple is playing with the market how come they're being sold by 3 telcos in Australia?

  8. drop the price I say and just make everyone happy

  9. I'm surprised at the level of indignation about VF NZ's pricing. It's hardly a shock, they've been ripping customers off for years, no reason to change just because they currently have the monopoly on one of the greatest pieces of technology ever to be available in the telecommunications industry. (I say currently, because it won't be long before other players have it, so hang in there).

    Paul and the decision makers at VF are being very short sighted and will lose thousands of dollars in revenue because of their exorbitant pricing and not just for the iPhone.

    My partner and I recently took both our iPhones, internet and home phone back to telecom which we swore we would never do, but there you go, and I couldn't be happier with the service and the pricing.

  10. Thanks for sharing!

    What makes the whole mobile situation worse is that the high prices for both plans and phones discourage most from exploring new innovations like smartphones and mobile internet.

    This impedes Kiwis from progressing with the rest of the world tech-wise and leaves us with a country who is afraid of trying new things because its too expensive.