Apple iPhone full review

We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone, coupled with the contract that O2 insists you take out.  

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There’s plenty to love, and plenty to lament about Apple’s new mobile. With its solid design and a beautiful, touch-sensitive 480 x 320-pixel screen the iPhone is beautiful to look at and a joy to use. Its browser, while not as versatile as the one on a desktop or laptop, is impressive and - at a stroke - has made all other mobile internet devices look antiquated and woeful. And of course, it works fine for making phone calls.

Watch our iPhone 3G video review below

Price matters

But there is a dark side to the iPhone: activation requires signing up for an expensive 18-month service plan with O2, the UK’s largest mobile service provider. Unlike most mobile phone deals you need to pay £269 for the phone as well as a top-tier monthly contract, and there is no mention of an upgrade offer when the contract finishes. To add insult to injury the 18-month contract may well outlast the usefulness of the sealed-in battery.

The contract starts at £35 per month, so the overall cost of the iPhone will be a minimum £899. For this you get a piffling 200 minutes and 200 texts per month. Although unlimited data access for the internet with no usage restriction is included in this price. To put this in comparison, Vodafone offers ‘unlimited’ internet for £7.50 on top of your regular contract (but with a 120MB cap).

Considering the market rate for full internet is £7.50 per month, the remaining £27.50 for 200 texts and 200 mins is a remarkably poor deal. Part of Apple’s problem may well be that there is so much competition in the UK market. Customers are used to being offered superb deals: free phones, unlimited calls to friends and family, ludicrously high text allowances, first three months half-price deals; even cashback deals where companies pay you to take out a contract on a phone. One of our friends curtly pointed out that the only way he’d spend £269 on a mobile phone was if it had £300 in cash taped to it.

When pricing up the competition in Carphone Warehouse we certainly didn’t have to look too far to find a better investment. Frankly, you could walk into any store in the UK, point randomly at any phone and get a better deal than the one Apple and O2 are offering.

As well as laying down the £269 in the store, you may be asked to pay £100 to O2 as a deposit. Plus you must pay two months of the contract, so you may well end up paying £439 in the first month of owning this phone. Compared to the usual deal of paying, well,‘nothing’, this may be asking too much of the UK public.

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