There is a plethora of options available. From a range of shops, service carriers, plans. From completely unlocked to 24-month contracts, and a wealth in-between. There's options for everyone.
First of all. If you want an iPhone on Thursday you can rule out online shopping. Apple's UK store is taking pre-orders, but isn't shipping until 14 July 2010.
So stocks are low, at least online. Although we think that Apple will have plenty of stock to service its retail stores, at least for day one. There's no way Apple will have hundreds of people camping outside its UK store only to tell them all there's no iPhone 4s to be had (at least we hope not).
We have heard reports that stocks are low at Carphone Warehouse. We imagine Apple Stores will have more stock than carrier stores (such as O2, Orange, and Vodafone, but can't confirm this).
Either way you'll be heading to a store on Thursday if you want to pick up an iPhone 4.
You can get the iPhone from the following stores:
- Apple Retail
- Carphone Warehouse
The following have confirmed that they will be stocking the iPhone 4, but have not confirmed pricing or availability on 24 June.
- Tesco Mobile
While there are a number of different plans available (we'll get to them soon). You basically get the iPhone on one of three service flavours: SIM-free, Pay & Go, and Contract. SIM-Free is Apple Store only, Contract and Pay & Go are only available at carrier stores.
This is completely unlocked and comes without a SIM card. As far as we know the only place to get an iPhone SIM-free is from an Apple Store. Two models are available:
- 16GB - £499
- 32GB - £599
Two models will be available. The white and black iPhone. Only the black model is available for pre-order. We do not know if the white iPhone will be available in stores on launch day.
SIM-only Plans for iPhone
If you buy a SIM-free iPhone you won't be able to use it without a SIM-card. We expect that like the iPad you will be able to pick up a SIM card from the Apple store and activate it when you get home (probably via a phone call).
Note that the iPhone 4 uses a Micro-SIM so you won't be able to use just any SIM card, it'll have to be one of the newer ones. But the SIM-free iPhone will work with any Micro-SIM card with phone and data so don't feel you're stuck with the options here.
With a SIM-free iPhone you can pick up either a monthly plan, a contract plan (that's paid monthly but you sign up for a period of time) or a Pay & Go plan.
O2 has a 30 day simplicity plan from £20 per month, or a 12 month plan from £15 per month.
This is Vodafone's SIM-only plan. 30-day plans are £25 per month, 12 month contracts start at £20 per month.
Orange isn't currently listing any information on its SIM-only plan, although it is listing Pay & Go plans. We assume that it will be offering more information soon.
Three also hasn't announced any details of its iPhone 4 SIM-only plans. Although this might be worth keeping an eye on as they have a reputation for undercutting the other networks, and have a fairly comprehensive 3G system in place.
We don't expect Tesco to be selling SIM-only plans (although we could be wrong) as the Tesco Mobile plan works on the O2 network. We expect Tesco to announce iPhone 4 Pay & Go plus Contract plans after the launch. If it follows its iPhone route it will offer a plan with a higher upfront cost, but lower monthly tariff.
Pay And Go
This model is sold via a carrier (Orange, Vodafone, or O2). On this plan the iPhone is locked to a single carrier, but you don't have to pay a monthly charge. instead you top up and pay for calls and texts as you go.
O2 has announced that Pay & Go will not be available at launch but at a later date.
Here is what O2 is offering Pay & Go Customers. You must top up at least £10 every month to get data. This contrasts with the current iPhone plan which offers 12 months free data for all Pay & Go customers.
- Top up £10-£14. Get 300 texts and 500MB internet
- Top up £15-£29. Get 500 texts and 500MB internet
- Top up £30 or more. Get unlimited texts and 500MB internet
- Once you've used up your allowance, texts are 10p each.
- Picture messages are 30p each.
Note that there is no information on who much calls cost. Although these will be taken from the money that you have placed no to the phone.
Here is what Orange is offering. Note that Orange doesn't require a monthly payment, but does only offer a quite limited 250MB per month. But if you use your iPhone sparingly this might be a good option. There is no information on whether Orange will have Pay & Go iPhone 4 models at launch.
Paying for the iPhone handset on Pay & Go
- 16GB - £480
- 32GB - £570
- 250MB on all contracts
Note: Orange uses animal names for its plans, for some bizarre reason. These offer free usic, texts, weekend calls, or 10p texts or calls from abroad for 5p. More information is available on the site.
Orange is also offering unlimited WiFi
Vodafone isn't currently offering any details of its Pay & Go plans for iPhone.
Carphone Warehouse does not seem to be offering the Pay & Go or SIM-free model. it is offering all of the contract deals listed below, however.
Buying an iPhone on Contract
Okay, so perhaps you've decided you don't want to get a SIM-free model and can't get a Pay & Go one at launch. This brings you into the realm of the contract.
This is where things get a bit more complex. You take out a contract on 18-month or 24-month plans and pay an upfront fee for the handset (typically reduced in price) and promise to pay a monthly fee. This monthly fee subsidises the handset although you may end up paying more in the long run.
One upside to taking out a contract is simplicity. You don't really need to bother with topping up, or taking out different plans, and you don't typically have to worry so much about running out of credit. Although you may end up running a bill.
Take particular note of data usage. This used to be unlimited on O2's contract, but now all contracts are offering limited data usage between 250MB and 1GB per month. We typically use between 250Mb and 500MB each.
Here is information on O2's monthly plans. It's the part under Pay Monthly tariffs and starts from £25 per month on an 18 month contract, or £30 on a 18 month contract.
Here is the Orange pricing and deals for contract customers. It's fairly complex so click here to read more and see a larger diagram.
Here is info on the Vodafone contract for 18 month plans.
And finally the Vodafone 24 month plan
Any wiser, now? We'll understand if you say no. So what's the best deal?
The cheapest way to get an iPhone 4, in the long run, is to pick up a SIM-free model and an O2 12 month contract for 15 per month. With 500MB data per month it's probably not a bad deal either (and you can pay an extra £5 if you want more than 500MB - that's probably the right amount for most people). Although this does involve an initial outlay of £500 and signing up for 12 months to O2's network (which has reliability issues due to - we assume - over-subscription).
It's somewhat annoying that Three hasn't announced any SIM-only deals so far, because they may well undercut O2 and have a better network. So bear that in mind before signing up to a 12-month contract. In fact, if you're getting an SIM-free iPhone we'd recommend paying the extra fiver for a 30 day contract and seeing how things stand when the dust has settled. You can always take out a more permanent deal down the line. The open season nature of the iPhone market may mean better deals once the initial rush has passed. (This is what we are planning to do, incidentally).
Orange is rather cheekily referring to its mobile internet as "unlimited" but is actually capped at 750MB (the same as Vodafone's) and is charging slightly less for handsets and more for monthly plans. So you'll end up paying more in the long run, but is a good option if you haven't got the money to put down in advance.
Vodafone is in the middle somewhere. Offering a fairly good balance of handset price and monthly tariff. Both the 18 and 24 month plans on Vodafone seem fairly good value (especially as they are offering 1GB of data, so you won't have to worry about it). The £25 per month cost is close enough to what you'd pay SIM-free if you're willing to sign up for 24 months (you'll have to sit out the next iPhone upgrade though).
And frequent European visitors might want to check out the £40 a month deal that offers 5MB of data roaming a day (which we believe is worth £15 per day, if you paid for it normally).