Three iPhone Carriers That Make AT&T Look Like a Deal

When Steve announced the iPhone 3G on stage at WWDC, one of the more interesting tidbits was the mention of a locked-in maximum price of $199/$299 in every launch country. But if you listened closely, you would have heard the key qualifier: "almost every country." Some deviation from the U.S. price is unavoidable, which is why Steve hedged his statement, but users in three countries in particular-Canada, Belgium, and Spain-are getting taken out back and walloped, each in their own special way.

One point where a lot of the international carriers get you is in a lack of unlimited data. You can't be keeping a running total of kilobytes consumed this month when you pull your phone out of your pocket to look up a movie time or find a restaurant-that's just not the way this phone works, especially considering the range of data-consuming applications available. Many of the Euro carriers max out at 1GB before by-the-megabyte charges set in, which you'll suck down before you know it over 3G.

But on top of that, here are three that have found even more creative ways to reach into your pocket and/or piss you off.

Mobistar (Belgium): Ridiculous Unlocked Hardware Prices, With a Contract

Due to Belgian law, all phones must be sold unlocked. That means the iPhone is not eligible for a subsidy, and the 16GB will run you a massive €615 (that's $982). You can buy it without activation of a contract, but if you want to actually use the phone in Belgium with Mobistar service, they've still got you for a two-year contract, the most generous of which has a 1GB data cap and 540 minutes for €60 ($96)-kind of defeats the purpose of forcing sales of unlocked phones, no?

Rogers (Canada): Longest of the Long Contracts

Despite compromising somewhat by offering a discounted 6GB-per-month data plan on top of any of their regular voice plans, Rogers will still have you for three years. Insane. Plus you can only pair the 6GB promotion with any of their standard voice plans (not their iPhone packages), so you'll be paying extra for visual voicemail and SMS. And when you factor in the Canadian-to-US dollar exchange rate being $1=$1 right now, it gets even uglier.

Movistar/Telefonica (Spain): 3G Data Tease

Even though you can walk away with a free iPhone if you get on an expensive enough plan (Movistar hits you up either €15 or €25 per month for their iPhone plans on top of a minimum voice charge per month that ranges from €9 to €90, depending on usage), Movistar's "unlimited" data plans have an evil twist: after consumption of your first gigabyte under the Plus plan (or a paltry 200MB for the standard), your speeds are capped at 128kbps down/64 kbps up. Those are basically EDGE speeds, folks-according to our tests the 3G can manage 769kbps download speeds on AT&T's NYC network, which means for the rest of the month, you may as well save some battery by disabling 3G-you're not gonna use it. [A personal note from a Spaniard with a long experience dealing with Telefónica and Movistar: like always, the greediness and lack of vision of their execs-and by extension of most cellphone companies in this country-defies any description. Their secret mission statement remains the same: "screw the consumer when you don't have to compete with others". Which is exactly why I left my contract with them a long time ago, and I'm sticking to my iPhone classic until I can get the 3G somewhere else. - JD]

So our condolences to you, our Canadian, Belgian and Spanish readers. You're probably not alone though-there are still at least 49 more countries waiting for their iPhone launch, so the worst may yet be ahead of us. If you're getting screwed now or in the future, share below. You'll feel (a little) better.

[Rogers, Mobistar, Movistar/Telefonica]