I’ve been thinking long and hard about the iPhone, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up because I knew the data plans would suck in Australia. There have been a lot of complaints floating around that the iPhone 3G is expensive, and plan prices outside of the US are utterly crap. Well, as I suspected, you can add Australia’s iPhone plans to that list.

The first out was Telstra – it looks like they’re following the US model of data packs attached to your mobile plans. I won’t bother listing the phone or voice prices, because their data prices are fracking outrageous.

A couple of days ago, Optus joined in with their announcement. A little bit better, but notice a trend here? No unlimited data, just like the home internet plans in this country. Optus give you unlimited data for the first month if you sign up in August, but I can see that leading to a mountain of customer complaints when the September bills skyrocket.

So here’s my comparison. According to gizmodo, the cheapest iPhone TCO is $1975. At the current exchange rate that’s $2050. There are a wide range of TCO options on Optus, but the plan I’m considering is the $59/month regular Optus plan (not the cap plan, look further down) because it has the best balance of data vs price. The 24-month TCO to is $1464 (or $1584 for 16gb).

There are arguments that can be made both ways on if this is a good deal or not. Let’s look at the differences.

  • No up front cost on the Australian plan. This is actually pretty normal for phone deals over here, and is nice. On a 24 month contract, the handset repayments only total $168 on the 16gb phone!
  • Australian plans bundle voice and SMS together. However, text costs 25c a pop.
  • 450 minutes on the American plan, if you send zero texts and use the right plan bonus the $60 Australian plan will come out to around 100-150 minutes at 2 calls a day (we pay a 25c flagfall just for the privilege of calling someone).
  • 700mb Data. WTF?

I can’t find anywhere that gives a good indication of average monthly data usage on an iPhone, but it seems to me that an iPhone without an unlimited data plan isn’t much better than an iPod touch.

The one good point in all this is the “relatively” low 35c per MB data overcharge. To any normal person this is expensive, but most Australian providers (including Optus on prepaid) charge you 2.2c per kilobyte, so this is an amazing deal by comparison.

We still have the third iPhone provider, Vodafone, to announce their prices – but considering it will cost me $55 if I cancel the Optus contract I’m on, it would have to be an outstanding deal to tempt me.

I think that either way, I’m almost certainly going to cave and get a 16gb. I have less than 9gb of music and only add ~250mb a month; even with the 3gb of podcasts I have queued up there would still be plenty of headroom. In theory my data requirements dictate I should wait for an eventual 32gb model announcement, but waiting for hardware updates only leads to pain and frustration (WTB mac mini update!)