We in Belgium got royally taken up the pooper when it comes to the new iPhone 3G which will hit the stores in 3 days. The new device is some USD $300 more expensive than the previous one for a total of USD $700. Apple thought they could get away with the high price by having cellphone operators subsidize the initial cost of the phone and recovering it through their monthly calling plans. This works quite well because in almost none of the countries the iPhone costs more than USD $199 and more often than not it costs a whole lot less to, with prices as low as EUR 1 for the more costly calling plans. In Belgium though it'll be -- and hold on to your suspenders -- a whopping EUR 525 for the 8GB version and EUR 615 for the 16GB one. That's almost USD $1000.
Why? Because in Belgium we're not allowed to sell phones tied to a calling plan, so the operator is not allowed to subsidize them. This means you buy your phone at full price but are able to use it on any network, not tied to any operator or plan.
This is kind of false marketing because of course we _are_ tied to operators and plans... they just leave you the choice. Eventually you have to choose a cellphone operator and lock yourself there for 18 months. 18 months seems to be the standard contract time for phone plans here in Belgium. It's not like you can switch operator every 2 weeks. So what you get is not freedom, but the choice of which operator you want to be locked to.
Back to the issue, we're paying full price for the iPhone. This shouldn't be a problem really because in the end you pay the same amount of money with the subsidized plans, part of what you pay monthly goes to paying off your phone. Were it not that our calling plans also suck. One would expect them to be cheaper because there's no paying of a phone included, guess what... nope.
30km from here, in The Netherlands you can buy an iPhone for EUR 80, locked to the T-Mobile network, pay EUR 30 a month and get unlimited data. This means you can browse the Internet on your iPhone as much as you like, you won't have to worry about hitting a total-transfered-volume cap.
In Belgium you get to pay EUR 525 for the 8GB iPhone, the cheapest plan is also EUR 30 and gets you a lousy 200MB of data month. 200MB that's about 15 5-minute YouTube clips. The clips you get to see on the iPhone's YouTube player are of a slightly better quality and thus a bit bigger in size.
What boggles the mind is how in The Netherlands they can sell you an iPhone for EUR 80 with a plan of EUR 30/month out of which the operator has to recuperate the EUR 445 it owed Apple _and_ give you unlimited data. Here in Belgium the operator doesn't owe Apple anything for the iPhone as the customer pays for it 100%, the EUR 30/month is fully theirs to keep and still they only provide you with 200MB/month.
This is sad. I hope another operator comes up with a really cool dataplan or something for 3G phones. We have 3 in Belgium: Mobistar who'll be selling the iPhone unlocked at full price, Proximus (the biggest operator) and Base (a minor operator without 3G)
Knowing me I'll probably just pay through the nose for the iPhone, comforting myself I do in the end pay as much as the rest of you. Us belgians just need to find ourselves a really cheap dataplan somewhere in the maze of different plans the operators seem to be offering.