The iPhone 3G S: Worth the Contract?

On June 8th 2009 Apple announced the latest version of their iPhone. This looks like another incremental change – more minor features and solved problems. Apple is obviously aiming to maintain the iPhone as one of the core smartphone configurations, so its design is basically the same. The improvements are good, but are they enough for a company to adopt iPhones despite their cellular expense management challenges?

The new iPhone supports tethering and MMS, comes with a better camera, battery and headphone included, and is a tougher unit. It’s faster; it features automatic field filling for web browsing. All in all, there isn’t much to make you go “wow.” Even the voice command feature isn’t unexpected, since it’s an emerging technology for other phones.

It’s easy to be dismissive, but combined, these improvements make the iPhone a tempting choice for anyone thinking of a smartphone, but for businesses, there’s a barrier: the contract. AT&T and Rogers in Canada have maintained their stranglehold over the iPhone. In Canada, Rogers has exploited its iPhone monopoly with particular gusto, charging far more than AT&T for cell phone plans with lower data caps. While there are ways to “jailbreak” the phone’s SIM lock and other restrictions this isn’t an appropriate solution for businesses. Inflexible contracts mean that even though the new iPhone could be a fantastic business smartphone it won’t be a cost-effective choice outside of fields where the phone’s trendy nature takes precedence over practical function.

There is one attractive aspect from a telecom expense management perspective: the 8GB 3G model has dropped to just $99 in the US. Rogers hasn’t followed suit, but may do so after Canadian release details come out.