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How much does the iPhone really cost in Canada?

Nothing beats my wife’s iPhone plan with Fido. $17 per month with unlimited voice on evening and weekend, standard voice mail, calling forwarding, call display, text messages package. The catch? No data plan. Call Fido to disable data service so the iPhone will not use any data accidentally. Having Wifi for data connection is good enough.

Matt Hartley, Financial Post

It’s open season for iPhones in Canada.

For the first time, all three of Canada’s wireless carriers are offering Apple Inc.’s touch screen iPhone. Although Rogers was the first to offer the device (as far back as the summer of 2008) both Bell and Telus jumped into the fray this week with the launch of their own HSPA mobile networks.

Of course, now that Canadians have their choice of carrier, the question becomes: which one offers the most iPhone for your money?

Here at the FP Tech Desk, we know it can be tough to sort through the fine print and endless strings of numbers contained in carrier rate plans. So we’ve tried to simplify the process for you as best we can.

Below, you will find a (somewhat) comprehensive comparison of the various iPhone-specific rate plans offered by Bell, Rogers and Telus. We compare the price of the devices, the plans offered and some of the additional features and costs specific to each carrier.

As well, we have built what we believe to be three somewhat typical profiles of iPhone users to give you an idea of what you might want out of an iPhone plan depending on how you expect to use it.

(Please note that all these plans were calculated according to Toronto-area usage rates and may not be universal across the country)

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UP FRONT

Okay, let’s start with the cost of the device itself. All three carriers offer the 16 gigabyte (GB) and 32 GB iPhone 3Gs (in both black and white) as well as an 8 GB version of the older iPhone 3G. Rogers, however is the only carrier currently offering the older 16 GB iPhone 3G.

Prices for the devices themselves are fairly even, unless you’re looking to pick up an iPhone without a contract, in which case, Rogers offers a slight discount over Bell and Telus on all available models.

iPhone 3G (8GB)
Bell: $99.95 on a three year contract, $599.95 without a contract
Rogers: $99 on a three year contract, $580 without a contract
Telus: $99 on a three year contract, $599 without a contract

iPhone 3G (16GB)
Rogers: $149 on a three year contract, $730 without a contract

iPhone 3Gs (16GB)
Bell: $199.95 with a three year contract, $699.95 without a contract
Rogers: $199 with a three year contract, $680 without a contract
Telus: $199 with a three year contract, $699 without a contract

iPhone 3Gs (32GB)
Bell: $299.95 with a three year contract, $799.95 without a contract
Rogers: $299 with a three year contract, $780 without a contract
Telus: $299 with a three year contract, $799 without a contract

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MONTH TO MONTH

All three carriers have designed smart phone pricing plans which combine phone minutes with text messaging and data services, allowing users to take advantage of the Web-browsing capabilities of these increasingly sophisticated devices.

While Bell and Rogers have both created iPhone-specific plans, Telus has opted to create a set of plans which apply to all of its smart phones, including BlackBerry devices, not just the iPhone. Below are the stripped down pricing plans for each of the three carriers.

Bell:
Bell offers four iPhone-specific plans, each with different combinations of data and local phone minutes. Bell users can choose any of the company’s phone plans for use with the iPhone — and still qualify for the discounted iPhone price– however, company officials say the iPhone plans have been designed specifically to take advantage of the device’s features.

Combo 45 plan ($45)
150 minutes of local talk time
Unlimited talking and texting with 5 local numbers
500 MB of data
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
Also includes: Conference calling, call waiting, unlimited WiFi access at Starbucks locations.

Combo 55 plan ($55)
300 minutes of local talk time
Unlimited talking and texting with 5 local numbers
1 GB of data
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
Also includes: Conference calling, call waiting, unlimited WiFi access at Starbucks locations.

Combo 75 plan ($75)
400 minutes of local talk time
Unlimited talking and texting with any 5 numbers in Canada
2 GB of data
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
Also includes: Call display, message centre, conference calling, call waiting, unlimited WiFi access at Starbucks locations.

Combo 95 plan ($95)
500 minutes of local talk time
Unlimited talking and texting with any 5 numbers in Canada
Unlimited incoming and outgoing text messaging throughout Canada
2 GB of data
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
Also includes: Call display, message centre, conference calling, call waiting, unlimited WiFi access at Starbucks locations.

Fine print
– Bell charges $35 for each new customer activation and also tacks on a $6.95 per month system access fee.
– With the iPhone-specific plans, users cannot add additional data packages, however they can get more minutes per month if they find they’re talking too much and going over their limit. Additional minutes are $0.35 each.
– If users spend too much time surfing the Web and go over their alloted data plan, each additional MB is $0.03.
– Only the $95 plan includes text messaging, however text messaging plans start at $5 (for 250 outgoing and unlimited incoming) while an unlimited texting plan costs $15.
– Only the $75 and $95 plans include voice mail and caller ID. Caller ID costs $7 per month while voice mail costs $8 per month, however users can get both for $12, if they wish to add them to one of Bell’s other rate plans.

Rogers:
Rogers has two different iPhone-specific plans which offer a mix of voice and data services. However, the company also has an extensive list of extra “value” packages which users can add to their existing plan for extra data or other features. Rogers customers don’t have to sign up for an iPhone specific plan, however, in order to qualify for the discounted purchase price of the iPhone, they must sign up for a three year plan worth at least $45 per month. Customers can choose to build their iPhone pricing plan tailored to their own uses “a la carte” by combining any of the company’s voice and data plans.

Plan One: $65
250 local minutes of talk time
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
75 outgoing text messages, unlimited incoming
1 GB of data
Visual Voicemail
Unlimited WiFi access at Rogers and Fido hotspots

Plan Two: ($80)

400 local minutes of talk time
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
100 outgoing text messages, unlimited incoming
2 GB of data
Visual Voicemail
Unlimited WiFi access at Rogers and Fido hotspots

Add-ons
$20 – Call display, enhanced voicemail, unlimited text and multimedia messaging, ringbacks, free evenings start at 6 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.
$40 – Call display, enhanced voicemail, unlimited text and multimedia messaging, 500 MB of additional data
$60 – 150 local minutes, 1,000 text messages, 1 GB of data
$60 – 150 local minutes, 1 GB of data, unlimited calling and texting with any 5 local numbers
$60 – 250 local minutes, 1 GB of data
$75 – 200 local minutes, 1,000 text messages, 1 GB of data

Extra data

$25 – 500 MB
$30 – 1 GB
$60 – 3 GB
$80 – 5 GB

Fine Print
– Rogers charges a $35 activation fee for each new device
– Rogers has done away with its “system access fee” however, it charges users an addtional “government recovery fee” of between $2.51 and $3.49 for each plan. Rogers added about $5 to each of its plans when it did away with the “system access fee.” Combined with the “government recovery fee,” the end result is almost unchanged for the customer.
– Rogers users can’t combine additional data-only plans with iPhone-specific rate packages, but can build custom rate packages using the company’s other talk and text packages
– Each of the two iPhone plans includes one month of free “MY5” unlimited talk and text with 5 local numbers
– Users who go over their allotted minutes will be charged $0.35 for each additional minute
– Additional data costs $0.50 for the first 60 MB then $0.03 for each MB thereafter
– Additional outgoing text messages cost $0.15 per message

Telus:
Telus opted not to create iPhone specific plans, but instead has four different Clear Choice plans which are designed to accommodate any of the company’s multifunction smart phones, including iPhones, BlackBerrys and other devices.

Clear Choice Plan One: $50
150 local anytime minutes
Unlimited talk and text with 5 local numbers OR 1,000 outgoing and unlimited incoming text messages
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
500 MB of data
Also includes: Voice mail, call waiting and conference calling

Clear Choice Plan Two: $65
200 local anytime minutes
Unlimited talk and text with 5 nationwide numbers OR unlimited incoming and outgoing text messages OR double local anytime minutes
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
1 GB of data
Also includes: Voice mail, call waiting and conference calling

Clear Choice Plan Three: $80
350 local anytime minutes
Unlimited talk and text with 5 nationwide numbers OR unlimited incoming and outgoing text messages OR double local anytime minutes
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
2 GB of data
Also includes: Voice mail, call waiting and conference calling

Clear Choice Plan Four: $100
450 local anytime minutes
Unlimited talk and text with 5 nationwide numbers OR unlimited incoming and outgoing text messages OR double local anytime minutes
Unlimited local calling after 9 p.m. and on weekends
3 GB of data
Also includes: Voice mail, call waiting and conference calling

Fine Print
– Telus charges an activation fee of $35 per device
– Unlimited text messaging and called ID can be added to any plan for $15 per month
– Users will be charged $0.05 per MB if they go over their data plan allottment
– Telus users cannot add to their data plans
– Users going over their allotted minutes will be charged $0.35 per minute and $0.15 for each text message over their limit

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WHICH PLAN IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

For this final section, we’ve created three typical cellphone plans based on how much someone might use their phone and calculated approximately what each carrier would charge for that combination of options and features.

Light User: (150 minutes of daytime calling, 500 MB of data, voicemail, 250 outgoing text messages)

Bell: Combo 45 plan ($45) + voicemail ($8) + system access fee ($7) + 250 outgoing text messages ($5) =  approx. $65 per month plus taxes

Rogers: iPhone Plan One ($65) + $20 Add on package with enhanced voicemail and unlimited text and multimedia messaging + GRRF ($3.50) = approx $88.50 per month plus taxes

Telus: Clear Choice Plan One ($50) + unlimited text messaging and caller ID package ($15) = approx. $65 per month plus taxes

Medium User: (250 minutes of daytime calling, 1 GB of data, voicemail, 500 outgoing text messages)

Bell: Combo 55 plan ($55) + voicemail ($8) + system access fee ($7) + unlimited texting package ($15) = approx. $85 per month plus taxes

Rogers: iPhone Plan One ($65) + ($20) Add on package with enhanced voicemail and unlimited text and multimedia messaging + GRRF ($3.50) = approx $88.50 per month plus taxes

Telus: Clear Choice Plan Three ($80) = approx $80 per month plus taxes

Power User: (At least 300 minutes of datytime calling, 2 GB of data, voicemail, unlimited text messaging)

Bell: Combo 75 plan ($75) + system access fee ($7) = approx. $82 per month plus taxes

Rogers: iPhone Plan Two ($80) + $20) add on package = approx. $100 per month plus taxes

Telus: Clearn Choice Plan Three ($80) = approx. $80 per month plus taxes

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SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

Hopefully this guide provides you with a starting or reference point which can help ease your decision if you do decide to get an iPhone.

Despite three different carriers offering the iPhone, users are going to end up paying roughly the same no matter which carrier they choose. All three carriers charge a $35 system access fee and the cost of the iPhone itself remains largely unchanged from carrier to carrier. While the rate plans each carrier offers for the iPhone may differ slightly in terms of features, number of minutes or options, prices are largely the same.

Please remember, the rate plans included here are the “advertised” plans offered by each carrier designed for the iPhone or smart phones. Rogers and Bell both have said that users who find all of the rate plans unacceptable can build their own plan from the company’s other existing packages and each carrier has its own rules regarding pricing and services.

Chances are, if you want an iPhone (and actually use it) it’s going to cost you at least $70 per month to operate it in Canada.

But please, if you are thinking about getting an iPhone, the most important thing you can do is shop around and remember to do your research.

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