Hey you…yes you, the one with all things iPhone in mind. Trust me, I know what it’s like once you’ve finally decided an iPhone is the way to go!
You know, I was fairly enthusiastic when the original iPhone 3G was launched in Malaysia some time last year. No doubt it was launched pretty late over here at this god-forsaken land, especially since most people in other countries around the world have had their iPhones in their hands by then. And by the time it was launched here, most of the people I know (who owned iPhones) had actually travelled out of the country to buy one (think neighbouring Singapore…) or had friends from places like Hong Kong and Australia sent one to them. I was keen on getting my grubby little hands on one too, but there were a number of issues that kept me from buying one. Not that it prevented me from stopping by the Machines shop ever so once in a while, flicking things on the screen of the display model, face lighting up like a 7-year-old with a new toy! So if it could bring such obvious joy, what kept me back?
One was the features on the iPhone 3G…or the lack of them.
I was coming from a Symbian S60 v.3 platform, still am. I have been so accustomed to it, having used many Nokia phones since the day I could afford one in 1997, but left it briefly in 2003 when I jumped on the PocketPC bandwagon, only to find myself coming back to Symbian two years later after having found PocketPC Phones irritating at best, unreliable at worst. Sure, they make great PDAs, but don’t count on them to play the role of a telecommunication device. In my opinion, the operating system was way ahead of the time of the hardware, in some case the other way round as well. They somehow fail to work well together. Most people I know (read: All) have had similar experience with PPC, and usually revert back to something more stable, after realising that they could never live a decent life with missed calls and smses that don’t deliver. You could blame it on the buggy software I had installed, but the less-techie ones amongst us, real friends included, have had similar problems without installing any or many third party apps of sort. Eventually the touchscreen gave way, thanks to the incessant scribbles, jabs and pokes. I had become very proficient with stylus use. Somehow, the idea of having to spend quite some money to replace the touchscreen on a two-year old, already-obsolete at the same time unreliable device didn’t sit quite well with me. So it’s back to Symbian…
Being on good ol’ reliable Nokia phones meant having all the reliable features that came with them. At least reliable enough to do day-to-day PIM work. I started out from the early banana Nokia 8110 right up to the Nokia N95 and E90 that i use interchangeably today. Having these great N- and E-Series phones meant good multimedia facilities were at hand, and calling the wife with 3G video calls wasn’t a problem.
So when the iPhone 3G was finally launched here, I was at first a little surprised to find that a phone with 3G in its name doesn’t do 3G video calls. Especially when most other phones in the market already had a tiny dedicated low-resolution camera on the front panel specifically for 3G video calls. It wasn’t a put-off, considering the number of video calls I make – few and far in between, and only to the wife when I travel abroad once in an indigo moon. So yes, I could live with an iPhone 3G without video calls.
I decided to check with a friend who has been using the iPhone 3G since it was launched in the USA. He lives there, so he got it the day the 3G was born and delivered to the world. He discouraged me from getting one when I asked him about it, citing reasons that the phone hangs and crashes once in awhile. Coming from a Symbian platform that rarely crashes if ever, thoughts of my previous Windows Mobile experience came to mind. Am I going to take a step backwards with another touchscreen device? Despite being very proficient with Graffiti when I was with Palm and the handwriting recognition with Windows Mobile, I had longed again to type with a keypad and T9 predictive text input those days. I’ve had it with touchscreens and styluses…
Plus, there was no copy and paste (which my N95 could do pretty well), proper GPS software that is usable in Malaysia (Maps 2.0 has done it pretty well too on the N95 and E90), no MMS (not that it bothered me, since I never send out MMS and rarely receive them…but these days, what kind of phone doesn’t have MMS capability?!). I believe the battery life on the E90 to be better than the iPhone’s too.
With disadvantages about the iPhone 3G abound, I discarded all thoughts about buying it. Sure, once in awhile the feet walks me to a nearby Machines and the fingers practised the flips and flicks on the glorious 3.5-incher, imagining “what could have been”.
Fast forward a few months and out comes the iPhone 3G S. Even before that, the OS 3.0 had been released, with souped up features and a promise that it was going to be in the next iPhone incarnation. While I loved the new additions in 3.0, I couldn’t wait to see what upgrades would be implemented in the new hardware.
It was dismal day to learn that Apple still had not incorporated the front camera for 3G video calls in the iPhone 3G S. Why? Nevermind why for now. What matters are the other bits that have been included. While the previous good features remain, the new 3G S sports 256 MB of RAM doubled from the previous model, rumours of an 800 Mhz processor underclocked to 600 MHz, a new magnetometer and a new oleophobic coating on-screen to prevent the smudges found so often on touchscreen devices, the iPhone 3G included. Won’t go into detail here on the specs.
After much deliberation, I finally decided the specs were good enough reasons for me to go out and buy one. Problem is, you don’t get an iPhone 3G S off the shelf like you do with bread. Or like with any other phone for that matter.
I thought of maxis, since they are the appointed official carrier for the iPhone in Malaysia much like what AT&T and O2 are in the USA and UK. I have also been on maxis since 1998. However, I remember clearly when the iPhone 3G was launched last year, many complained about the contract packages that came with the iPhone 3G. I also did my own calculation, and found the overall price a little too hefty. Clearly it was a toy not for the big boy, but one for the big as well as the rich. It was one of the reasons I did not buy the iPhone 3G. If I was going to buy one then, I was going to get it from Skudai-based iWorld.com.my – contract-free and reasonably-priced!
I guess with the complaints, maxis decided to restructure their packages. The contract plans haven’t changed very much at all, but the overall price of getting the 3G S from maxis has come down somewhat. I already have over 30GB of music in my iPod, so a 32GB iPhone 3G S was the way to go. At the RRP of RM2,990 it was already cheaper than the prices at iWorld.com.my (RM3,599 at time of writing) and ebay in Hong Kong, Italy and the US (at least USD699 on average for unlocked brand new!). Plus, the laws in Malaysia does not allow for a phone to be locked to one particular telco, hence all iPhones sold through maxis is already factory-unlocked from start. So why not just get from maxis?
Just when I was going to splurge RM2,990 on the phone, I realised that it would actually be wiser to go on a plan. With iValue 1 at RM100 monthly for 12 months, the price of the phone becomes RM2,290 i.e. RM700 off RRP. I was already spending RM50 a month on my maxis phone bill, so that meant having to fork out only an additional RM50 a month. In 12 months, I would only be paying 12 x RM50 = RM600 more than what I am already currently paying. It would be erroneous to include my monthly RM50 in the calculation, as I am not adding a new line. So my nett savings would be RM700 – RM600 = RM100, plus I get 500MB data usage (free or prepaid for, whichever makes you happy!) a month.
So, rather than buying the 3G S at the price of RM2,990 without contract and benefits, I am now getting it at RM2,890 with free 500MB data and 333 minutes worth of calls a month. Sounds like a better deal? I think so!
With this new revelation, I decided to go right ahead and place my RM200 deposit at a maxis Centre. I did on 12th September 2009 at TTDI. It has been agonizing, just waiting for shipment to arrive, which they promised would take within 30 days from date of booking.
How could it be agonizing, you ask? After all, I’ve survived through the years since iPhones 2G, 3G…and the first few months already of the 3G S.
I’ll tell you. It’s different, when you’re playing with one at the store which is not your own, and expecting one which you’ve put downpayment for, knowing that the model and unit you’re destined to own is sitting in a box somewhere in town.
In that respect, an iPhone is not very different from a new BMW.