Orange takes the shine off the iPhone

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02 November 2009 Orange takes the shine off the iPhone

Orange lifted the lid on their iPhone tariffs earlier today and anybody hoping for an injection of competition into the iPhone market is no doubt going to be disappointed with what they have to offer.

The plans are nearly identical to O2’s with only minor differences. More significantly, the so-called “unlimited” data access package bundled with all tariffs has a frankly ridiculous 750MB fair usage cap.

When unlimited isn’t limited

When the iPhone was originally announced, O2’s plans also carried a cap (an even more pathetic 200MB). Fortunately O2 saw sense and the cap was lifted before it even went on sale so I’m surprised Orange trying to pull the same stunt.

You may question whether you would even come close to going over that limit on your iPhone but with apps like Spotify and other streaming radio apps becoming popular it may not be long before you are infringing on the FUP (or will it? see below).

The practice of having limited “unlimited” plans has been going on for a while now with the ISP market and it’s about time networks stopped trying to pull this crap. Either make your plan truly unlimited or just be up-front and honest about the limits of your plan. Fortunately, not all ISPs are like this (my own ISP, Be, for example, offers a truly unlimited service).

This isn’t the “mobile” internet, it’s the “Orange” internet

All this talk of uncompetitive pricing and limited data plans might not be of surprise to some people but even more amusing is the following gem, found in Orange’s terms and conditions for their iPhone tariffs. Apple like to promote the iPhone as a device that gives you full, no-compromise access to the internet and the ever-growing app store plays a big part in that. But it seems that Orange isn’t that interested in no-compromise access:

[Mobile internet browsing] may not to be used for other activities (e.g. using your handset as a modem, non-Orange internet based streaming services, voice or video over the internet, instant messaging, peer to peer file sharing, non-Orange internet based video).

Restrictions on using the phone as a modem are to be expected; there will no doubt be a pricey bundle for that. But “non-Orange internet based streaming services”? Say good by to Spotify, Last.fm or internet radio. “Voice or video”? Don’t bother with Skype. Even instant messaging (of which there are many clients on the app store) is out of question. And don’t forget “non-Orange internet based video”. Better have a Wi-Fi connection handy when you want to check out that hillarious video on YouTube using the built-in YouTube app.

Of course, Orange may say that these terms are there to prevent abuse but since when did using a device in the way in which it was intended constitute abuse? I can only assume Orange are worried about an influx of iPhone users overloading their network. Given much of the above, I’d be surprised if there is such an influx.

Over to you Vodafone

With Orange utterly failing to take advantage of their position as the first network besides O2 to offer the iPhone and offer some truly competitive deals to lure away existing O2 customers, this leaves Vodafone in an interesting position.

Will they capitalise on this and announce some great deals? We won’t know until January, but with my O2 contract coming up for renewal around that time, I shall still be interested to see what they have to offer.

Update (5 Nov 2009): BBC tech pundit Rory Cellan-Jones has posted a similar article over on his BBC dot.life blog in which he claims that having spoken to Orange, they will not be enforcing their ridiculous T&Cs for iPhone users, which begs the question, why was it even there in the first place?