Why I didn’t buy an iPhone

I want an iPhone. Really, I do. I love the idea of having this spiffy little device with a gorgeous screen and the ability to get online from just about anywhere. I’d love to have my phone, cameara, multimedia player, organizer, and applications all running on the same slim device. I’ve seen the iPhone, played around with it, heard lots of love stories. There’s also the fact that just about every web developer seems to have one. It’s only $199, so why not take the plunge?

Let’s take a look at what would be involved in my potential acquisition of an iPhone.

First, I’d need to purchase the iPhone. The price is $199 with a two-year contract through AT&T. Then, I’d need to sign up for a service plan. The cheapest individual AT&T plan that works with the iPhone is $69.99 plus tax and fees. That’s $69.99 out of our monthly budget for at least the next two years, which works out to $1679.76 over the two year span. So for $1878.76 over two years, I’d have my very own iPhone 3G. Unfortunately, our budget is pretty tight, and we simply don’t have the extra funds to spend on the added monthly fees. So there’s a fairly clear reason not to buy an iPhone.

Now, let’s think about workarounds. Rebecca and I already have cell phones, with a Sprint plan that costs $59.99/month and allows us to share minutes between our phones. So couldn’t we cancel our plan and use that money toward the iPhone and AT&T service plan? Sure, but there are a few problems. First, our contract with Sprint is still in effect, so we would need to cancel that and pay the $200 early termination fee. Signing up for the $69.99 individual plan above would leave Rebecca without a cell phone, so we’d need to sign her up for her own cell phone. The cheapest plan I could find for the amount of minutes she normally uses is an AT&T GoPhone prepaid plan for $39.99. So we would both end up with phones for about $50 more per month, which is $20 less than we’d spend if I went straight for the iPhone. But still, $50 is not a small amount in our monthly budget, so this isn’t all that appealing. Plus, we’d be adding the $200 early termination fee onto the purchase price of the iPhone for a total of $399 spent up front.

There are other factors as well. We’ve been Sprint customers since 2000, so we have a fair amount of brand loyalty. Their service is excellent everywhere that we need it, call quality is crystal clear, and the plan we have is a good deal. I’ve not heard good things about AT&T’s service or call quality in this area. Also, the above-mentioned plan from AT&T doesn’t include any text messaging, which I’d almost certainly want to use, so that would be an extra $5-$20 per month depending on the amount of messages I wanted to send. And of course, there is the fact that Rebecca would also love to have an iPhone, and in order to have a shared plan for two iPhones, the cost for the plan jumps to a minimum of $129.99, which would put us back at the same price as if we had kept both of our Sprint phones and our Sprint plan active. Not to mention buying a second iPhone for another $199 (that’s $600 for two iPhones and one early termination fee). Finally, there’s the fact that even though it would be really cool to use the Internet from anywhere, it’s not something that I really need to have.

In reality, it all comes down to the extra monthly service charges. If it was just the early termination fee and the purchase price I had to deal with, I’d be willing to consider it. It’s not hard to come up with that kind of money in the short term. But consistently paying an additional $50-$70 per month for the lifetime of the account for something I don’t really need just isn’t worth it. Perhaps if I was able to claim it as a business expense and write off the monthly fee, or if my company was subsidizing the extra cost, I’d go for it. Or if I got an enormous raise and forgot about all of the other things my family needs to have or would like to do. But for now, the iPhone is out of the picture.

Which is why I bought an iPod Touch. More on that later, but for now, here are some photos.

Update, 06/09/2009

With yesterday’s introduction of the iPhone 3G S at $199, Apple also knocked the price of the iPhone 3G down to $99. While this is definitely cheaper, I still am unable to bring myself to buy an iPhone because:

  • It’s only available on AT&T
  • The required data plans are still priced out of our range

However, I am very excited about the iPhone 3.0 software update, which will also work on my iPod Touch, and which I will certainly be willing to pay $9.95 for.

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