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Should I get an iPhone in Asia?

By Reuben Lee, Damian Koh and John Chan

Ok, so you're determined that you have to get yourself an iPhone even if it's way over on the other side of the globe. And there are plenty of ways you can go about this: Beg, borrow, steal, blackmail friends/colleagues/strangers living in the US, eBay for it… oh yes, we Asians are an enterprising lot when we are fixated on our tech gear.

But before you gleefully rub your hands in anticipation of strutting around the block (well, at least your cubicle block) as the only iPhone-touting user among your green-eyed office mates, here are several things you need to know first. Also, if you cannot decide whether you should get an iPhone or not, hear what our in-house mobile gurus Damian Koh and John Chan have got to say about the device.

Why should you get an iPhone?

What to look out for?

For those of you in Asia planning to buy the iPhone, here are some things you need to know first.

Can I buy the iPhone?

The iPhone is like any other mobile handset. Anyone can buy it from the cellular carrier--in this case, AT&T in the US--or its affiliated stores. However, the iPhone's SIM card will be locked to the device, meaning you cannot use any other SIM cards (including your current AT&T card, if you have one) with the phone. In other words, until someone finds a way to unlock the SIM card feature on the iPhone (which will be illegal, by the way), you are stuck with the AT&T service if you want to use the cellular functions.

How much do I have to pay?

When you purchase the iPhone in the US, there is a two-year mobile subscription you have to sign with AT&T. That includes a US$36 activation fee and monthly data plans ranging from US$59.99 to US$99.99, which comes to a grand total of almost US$1,500 for two years of mobile subscription. That's not even inclusive of the cost of the iPhone itself, which will retail for US$499 (4GB) and US$599 (8GB). Additionally, you have to factor in the cost of accessories if you are getting those, and which probably has to be bought online since these are likely to be available only in the US.

 
How can I get one?

The simplest way is to perhaps join the queues forming at the Apple stores, if you happen to be in the US now. However, based on the overwhelming response and unknown quantities of the handset available, it seems likely that not everyone will be getting one during the initial launch period. So the best bet for those of us in Asia is to either get a friend in the US to start queuing or buy it online off reseller and auction sites at a premium. Do note that the units purchased online may or may not include subscription charges.

Can I use the iPhone in Asia?

Technically, the iPhone's quadband GSM network capability should allow it be used in many parts of Asia (except perhaps Japan and Korea). However, with the SIM card locked to AT&T, the only way it seems you can use the cellular functions of the iPhone in Asia is through its roaming services. This means you will have to incur long distance charges everytime you make a call.

If you choose not to use the cellular features, the iPhone's other onboard functions including its Web browsers and multimedia players should still be usable.

When will it be launched in Asia?

During the iPhone announcement at the last MacWorld, it was mentioned that the touchscreen mobile will be launched in Asia only in mid-2008.

Any difference(s) between the iPhone in the US and the one that will come to Asia?

While there are no reports on the differences between the iPhone in the US and the set that will eventually ship to our part of the world, many industry analysts have speculated that the unit in Asia will possibly come with added features including 3G/HSDPA as well as more affordable (lower storage capacity) options.

 

Reason 1: It's emotional well-being




Damian Koh
Senior Writer

HE SAYS YES
"If you're living in Asia, the one and only reason you need an iPhone is because everyone else won't have it. It's as simple as that! Just imagine the coolness and the street cred you'll earn as a true blue gadget freak. Although remote, there's still the likelihood that the iPhone could help you snag a girl or two. The possibilities are endless; you can blog about it, hang it around your neck, sleep with it, make out to it, whatever."


HE SAYS NO


John Chan
Senior Writer

"If you're living in Asia, the one and only reason you shouldn't have an iPhone is because everyone won't have it. Look out for muggers when you walk through that dark alley. Sleep with one eye open, or both, like the legendary Zhang Fei from China's Three Kingdoms period. And when it does get stolen, you'll feel like the Ferrari driver that was hit from behind--everyone will pat your shoulder in sympathy, but say "jerk, that's what you get for showing off" with muted breath."

Reason 2: It's design

HE SAYS YES


Damian Koh
Senior Writer

"The iPhone is a beauty. The 3.5-inch 320 x 480-pixel touchscreen LCD could be one of the biggest around on a mobile phone. The entire top surface of the iPhone is also made from optical-quality glass to prevent scratches while improving clarity. Plastics can go burn in hell. And if you must know, the iPhone is only 11.6mm thick. That's 2.3mm and 0.2mm thinner than the HTC Touch and Samsung Ultra Messaging i600, respectively. Okay, it loses out to the Motorola Q by 0.1mm, but do you really think you can tell?"

HE SAYS NO


John Chan
Senior Writer

"There's no denying the prettiness of the iPhone, as with most things made by Apple. But can you resist the accessories? Remember your iPod nano--so sleek, so beautiful, so covered up by a thick leather case and silicon protection that it'll cushion a bullet if someone tried to shoot you through your shirt pocket. Admit it, you'll accessorize like a madman, and then, who cares what your iPhone looks like? You won't be able to see it anyway."

 

Reason 3: It's revolutionary

HE SAYS YES


Damian Koh
Senior Writer

"The iPhone is revolutionary. It has only one Home button and you basically operate all the functions of the phone via its touchscreen LCD. The onboard accelerometer will automatically rotate your photos and movies depending on the orientation of the screen. Glide through your music albums with Cover Flow. Resize pictures just pinching their edges. Double tap to zoom in on a Web page. Pick up the phone to your ear and the proximity sensor automatically turns off the display to prevent accidental touches. HTC's TouchFlo? That's child play."

HE SAYS NO


John Chan
Senior Writer

"Every revolution has its price. This one is paid in American dollars, 499 or 599 of it, depending on the memory size. Imagine, it costs at least S$767 to own one, and you still have to sign a two-year contract with AT&T in the US. And knowing Apple's track record with first-generation products, waiting for the revolution to turn into at least one step of evolution may be wiser than jumping in now."

 

Reason 4: It's about features

HE SAYS YES


Damian Koh
Senior Writer

"The iPhone is everything in one. It's a widescreen iPod, a mobile phone, an Internet device running on Mac OS X (widgets!) and a full Safari browser (endless Web 2.0 applications). It even does YouTube and Google Maps! Windows users are not left in the lurch. The iPhone works with Windows XP Home and Professional (SP2) and Vista. The quadband phone comes also with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. We can go on and on but you get the drift."

HE SAYS NO


John Chan
Senior Writer

"Some of the most basic features you expect to see in mobile phones are not in the iPhone. You can't send MMS messages, the camera won't take videos, and there's no instant messaging like MSN or Yahoo! IM. It's an iPod, but you can't use any of your tunes as ringtones. It won't make video calls because it isn't 3G-enabled. But hey, what do we know? If Apple leaves them out, they can't be important, right?"

 

Reason 5: It's about branding

HE SAYS YES
"Don't ever tell anyone you're a true blue Mac user if you don't own the iPhone. They'll probably ask where your iPhone is and you'll be caught dead because you don't have one. Period. You NEED the iPhone. It is THE missing piece to the Apple puzzle."

HE SAYS NO
"Are you in America? No? Well, His Jobs-ness says you can't have one yet. 'Nuff said."

Source: CNet Asia

 
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