The iPhone in Canada: an FAQ

Broken iPhoneOriginally uploaded by Jeffery Simpson

I’ve blogged here about the iPhone before, so with the big announcement earlier today I figured an updating on what’s going on might be in order. So after the jump is all that we know about the iPhone, as of today. I’ll give you a few credentials before the jump and two disclaimers.

I’ve covered the cellular industry as a tech writer for the past several years for publications like IGN.com, The Kelowna Daily Courier and eVent! magazine. I’ve owned an Apple computer since the Apple IIe, and have an unlocked iPhone from the US which I’ve managed to break twice (see picture above). I am currently employed by a Rogers Wireless dealer, so that while I do not work directly for Rogers I am not fully neutral either. I also own shares in Apple, but not enough that I’m going to totally lie to you so that I can retire to my own personal island.

And now the iPhone.I’ve decided the best way to handle the information is by using an FAQ type of question and answer format, hopefully to give this some structure. So let us begin. We’ll start with the obvious and get more advanced, so take heart.

When is it coming to Canada?

Steve Jobs said it launches world wide on July 11th, and Rogers’ own website suggests that. There’s always room for disasters, but I’d say it’s safe to say July 11th.

Which carrier is it going to have it?

Because of Apple’s exclusive contract with AT&T in the United States, and the larger world wide network share it provides, the iPhone is a GSM only phone which means that it will only run on Rogers and Fido currently. You will not be able to unlock the iPhone to work with Bell or Telus, just like you can’t unlock your DVD player to play Laserdiscs, they’re just too different. If you want an iPhone you have to go with Rogers or Fido, at least until Telus switches to GSM (which has been rumored for years) or new players enter the market which is on the horizon.

What is it going to cost?

The announced pricing for the US is $199 for the 8 gig and $299 for the 16 gig version. Canadian pricing has not been announced, so it’s all speculation. However most Apple products are between $50 and $100 more expensive in Canada than in the US, despite the exchange rate, so it would not surprise me if it went up in price for us.

(Update: $199 and $299 is confirmed as the Canadian pricing, so I was wrong on that one).

As for plans, that’s also unknown at this point. On my iPhone I easily would use 10 megabytes of data a day via the EDGE network and with the new phone being 3G I can see that number being higher. Currently that would mean a Rogers data plan of over $100 a month, which I have a hard time seeing being very popular. The iPhone brought data rates down in the US last year, and I suspect that it’ll do the same thing in Canada. However at this point we have not heard anything, though I’d expect an all-you-can-eat style unlimited plan with the usual exceptions.

Where can I buy it?

I would have thought that you’d be able to buy it at the Apple Store, on Apple’s online store and at Rogers locations. However currently Apple’s Canadian website is directing people to visit either a Rogers or Fido store, which makes me wonder if perhaps the Apple Store and website won’t be carrying them. The alternative could be that Apple Stores are still too few and far between in Canada to be worth advising people to go to, since most Canadians can’t get to one. Again it’s something that’s yet to be clearly defined, and if it’s not sold at Apple Stores and online then that’s a drastic change from how things have been done everywhere else.

Where can I put my name down for one?

Errm… not sure yet. Most Rogers locations are all independently owned, so there’s probably no general across the board answer to that. A lot of dealers started taking names last October because of rumors about a possible November release, and I think the speed of today’s announcement took everyone by surprise. So I don’t know. And again a lot will depend on whether or not Apple Stores will be carrying them, and what Apple says about it.

Will we get the old iPhone or the new one?

The new one. Canada might have just gotten the N95 a year after the rest of the world, but Apple isn’t in the habit of selling an old product after they’ve released new ones.What’s the difference between the old and new iPhone?iLounge has a really good run down of the specs of the new phone [il]. The main difference is that it has the faster internet speeds with the 3G network, and has different colours. There’s a few other things, the camera is slightly better and it’ll run the new system software which will allow 3rd party applications. My favorite of which is the Typepad application for writing on my personal blog [jks].

Also the MobileMe features will be a nice addition, bringing over-the-air syncing of things like contacts and calendars to the iPhone. As someone who has paid for .Mac for years this is a very nice upgrade.

What is going to happen to the tens of thousands of unlocked first generation iPhones being used on Rogers and Fido’s networks?

They’ll continue to work just as they do. It seems unlikely that either Rogers or Apple is going to put any effort into letting people upgrade the software on their unlocked AT&T phones so that they’ll work with Rogers. I would however imagine that Rogers will allow unlocked iPhone users to sign onto any new data plans offered for the iPhone 3G.

This is in contrast to what Todd Maffin has been reporting, which is that Rogers will be supporting existing iPhones.

Update: Rogers will not be supporting already active iPhones.  In fact it’s been stressed that Rogers dealers are no longer allowed to activate unlocked fist generation iPhones (known as grey market iPhones) for fear of not being allowed by Rogers to sell the iPhone 3G.  So there is no longer any support offered for unlocked iPhones by Rogers, as opposed to the previous sometimes/sort-of support.  This is in contract to what Todd Maffin has reported [tm], but of course Rogers isn’t going to admit to the CBC that they’re firing anyone who provides customer service to existing customers.

(My other issue with Maffin’s reporting is his idea that Rogers should offer the same monthly plans as AT&T because Rogers and AT&T use the same technology.  That would be nice, clearly, but it ignores economic factors such as the fact that Rogers has a much smaller potential consumer base while having to provide service over a vast area of land.  Rogers’ coverage is not larger than AT&T’s, but when AT&T can count on a far greater number of sales and consumers in an area as small as California alone, than Rogers can from the entire nation, then the costs are going to be different.

He is however quite correct to point out that Rogers’ claims of data speeds on the iPhone and 3G network are largely fictitious.  As with battery life estimates it’s largely accepted that such numbers are “best case scenarios” and completely unrelated to anything that actually happens in the real world.  The thing is everyone plays that game, and nobody is going to stop for fear of looking bad with their real world estimates far outmatched by the Narnia estimates of their competitors.)

Any other questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

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