iPhone carriers here, there and everywhere

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iPhone carriers here, there and everywhere

With the iPhone's release just hours away, Aussie punters who were holding out on contracts are feverishly comparing prices and weighing up the benefits between the three confirmed carriers. Elsewhere in the world, however, most iPhone customers have only a single choice to make.

Now that Optus, Vodafone, and Telstra have all released preliminary pricing plans, it’s just a matter of choosing who, if anyone, will give Australian customers the most bang for their buck.

But Australia is one of only five countries -- including Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and Austria -- in which the iPhone will be provided by multiple carriers. In fact, of the 24 countries who will receive the new 3G iPhone on Friday, Australia is the only country to utilise more than two mobile carriers.

The reason these five nations have more than one choice in carrier could simply be attributed to Apple hedging its bets on less reliable markets.

“Basically these markets are far smaller than the U.S. market or other countries in Europe, so a single-carrier strategy would not be in Apple's best interest,” said IDC Australia Telecommunication Analyst Mark Novosel.

“In order to enable more people to have access to an iPhone, and consequently for Apple to sell more iPhones, the multiple carrier strategy seems the only logical solution.”

Not to mention the fact that withholding availability in many countries has already spurred almost fanatical anticipation for the device.

“The other view is that Apple went with a single carrier strategy to limit supply and stimulate more interest and discussion,” said Novosel.

“No doubt, Apple would have realised that they would have sold more units if they simply made it available across all networks, however with a wide availability the device would have been too common and would not have generated so much interest and discussion.”

With all worldwide prices yet to be released, it is difficult to examine who’s getting the best deal, and if a higher level of competition will drive prices down.

In Italy, only Vodafone has released its prices, with the cheapest plan running US$93 a month and the iPhones costing over US$300 for the 8GB and US$400 for the 6GB.

This isn’t much better than single carrier countries like Hong Kong or the US, which offer similar contract packages for less money a month and in the US’s case, less cost for the device itself.

In Australia, the extra competition at least means more flexibility and choices for the type and length of the mobile contract. From all three carriers, plans range from $19 a month to $179 a month, with 0, 12, or 24 month contracts.

Because this is the biggest ever worldwide introduction of new iPhones, Apple may be simply testing the waters of interest in the larger markets to prepare for a more expansive rollout of the product for next time.

“In a way it could be viewed that Apple believed that by sticking to one carrier it would be able to extract more revenue from each device, while also testing the water for consumer interest,” said Novosel.

“I'm sure that even Apple would not have anticipated that the iPhone would have caused this much interest and media attention.”

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