iPhone 3G Whiners Should Just Get a Life

Historically, early technology adopters have paid more to get their goodies. Pick a category: Big-screen TV, color TV, Blu-ray player or recorder, car phone, cell phone, digital camera, DVR,  high-speed broadband, MP3 player, VHS player, VHS recorder, Walkman, etc., etc., etc. Early adopters paid a price premium. If they want the newest thing, they pay more.

But with iPhone 3GS, that “pay more” comes at a price hard for some people to accept. Many existing US iPhone 3G owners are whining about not being eligible for discounted iPhone 3GS pricing. I say: Tough luck. You want the newest thing, you’re going to have to pay for it.

First-time iPhone buyers—and the earliest iPhone adopters who didn’t purchase the 3G—are eligible for discounted pricing on the 3GS. They will pay $199 for the 16GB model, or $299 for 32GB. For most iPhone 3G buyers, the price will be $399 and $499, respectively, and still with a two-year contractual commitment to AT&T. These existing customers don’t qualify for the lowest pricing, and many are whining about it.

Get a life. This is how the cell phone business is done. Carriers subsidize the cost of a phone. If the buyer wants the benefit of the discount he or she must agree to some term of service. With AT&T, that’s two years, bud.

The whiners are banding together. At Twitition there is petition:

We the undersigned petition AT&T to offer reasonable iPhone 3GS upgrade prices. AT&T should give existing customers the same rate for the new iPhone 3Gs that they do for new customers. New customers or not, another 2-year contract is being made.

More than 5,500 people have signed the petition. AT&T shouldn’t give into you. Carrier subsidy is a benefit, it’s not a right. You received the benefit when buying the iPhone 3G for $199 or $299 (Apple lowered price to $99 on Monday). The real cost of the device, unsubsidized, is $699 or $799, without contractual commitment or carrier lock in.

AT&T shouldn’t get all the blame here—if any is warranted. Apple launched the original iPhone with no subsidy, sharing revenue with AT&T. Early iPhone adopters like me paid $600, and there was still a two-year contractual commitment. Now that was outrageous. Apple and AT&T charged full price for a phone under contract. The policy had been full price, no commitment.

Because the original iPhone sold unsubsidized, most existing customers were eligible to buy the iPhone 3G starting July 11, 2008. But iPhone 3G’s lower subsidized pricing means that most people have to wait more than a year—as long as 18 months—before becoming eligible for discounted pricing on iPhone 3GS.

Is it unfair? Absolutely not. AT&T doesn’t hide this policy. Just the opposite. The carrier encourages customers to get new phones when they’re eligible, particularly if their two-year contract has expired.

I am one of you. My iPhone 3GS eligibility is July 12, a date that is earlier than expected, since it’s not 18 months since my iPhone 3G purchase. But that does make me ineligible to buy the new smartphone on June 16. Here’s a question: Should any current 3G owner buy up to 3GS? For most people, my answer is no, which is yet another reason for the cry babies to shut up.

The main advantages of 3GS over the 3G model are the less crappy camera and video capabilities. Oh, yeah, supposedly there will be faster 3G data, too. Right, just as Sprint and Verizon roll out 4G services. Sure, there will eventually be applications taking advantage of the video capabilities. Those apps ought to come out in big numbers about the time you whiners are eligible for the full subsidy.

It’s heartening to see that among all the babies calling AT&T a bully, there are a few adults. Over at Technologizer, Harry McCraken writes (I’ve reversed the order of the paragraphs):

I’m not that sympathetic towards iPhone 3G owners who want AT&T to sell them the iPhone 3G S at the same sweetheart price as someone who didn’t buy an iPhone 3G last year. You agreed to fulfill a two-year contract with AT&T in return for the discount you got last year.

If there’s a problem here, it’s the way phones are usually sold in America, via subsidies that encourage us to think that phones cost less than they really do, and which tie us up with a carrier and prevent us from moving a phone we’ve bought to another carrier (even temporarily, when we’re overseas). A top-of-the-line iPhone really costs $699, which is not a crazy price given its capabilities; it’s just that very few of us ever pay that price or even realize it exists. We’re conditioned to think of those subsidized prices as the prices, in part because phone manufacturers and carriers stress them above all else.

God love him, Jesus Diaz isn’t taking any of this whining either. His Gizmodo headline reads “Whiners of the World: Shut Up About the iPhone 3GS’ Upgrade Price.” He writes:

So you bought your heavily subsidised iPhone 3G with a two-year contract and now you are upset because AT&T wants to charge you full price for the new iPhone 3GS, right? Well, stop whining. You have no arguments. I have the iPhone 3G—by the way, I paid an extra $500 deposit on top of the price tag because I didn’t have US credit history back then—and I don’t qualify for a subsidised upgrade. I have to finish my contract first, then renew to qualify for the subsidy. If I was in Spain or anywhere else in the world, it will be the same.

But I am not whining. Not because I am a fanboy—I hate AT&T with a passion—but because there are no logical arguments to support the whining. Sure, it sucks to be me and pay almost-full price for the iPhone 3GS, but that’s how life is. You don’t get a reduced price on your new notebook just because you bought the old model a year ago. You don’t get reduced price on cars, or anything else.

I love these guys. Harry and Jesus are men. They’re taking this like adults. Why aren’t you?

As for me, I figured that if I’ve got to spend big bucks on an unsubsidized phone, why not one that is unlocked and packs better hardware and features. Yesterday I ordered a Nokia N97. The phone should arrive tomorrow. The N97 has a real camera, shoots great video and offers many other features superior to iPhone 3G. Based on using other Nokia handsets, I presume better call quality and battery life will be on the better-than-iPhone list.

Had I decided to buy the cheaper costing iPhone 3GS, I would have quietly waited until July 12. No whining. No complaining. Just anticipation. What’s your problem?

Photo Credit: Kennosuke Yamaguchi