Expect a glut of media coverage as the iPhone 3GS goes on sale in the US this weekend — but in Australia, we have to wait until Friday June 26 for the third major model of Apple's phone to appear. What do we know about what will happen when it does?
The answer turns out to be surprisingly little. Optus and Vodafone have both confirmed that they'll be selling the 3GS, and 3 (now effectively part of the Vodafone empire) will also offer it, the first time there's been a 3 iPhone in Australia. Telstra hasn't officially confirmed any plans, but it seems likely it will also sell the phone given its existing relationship with Apple (when the iPhone first arrived in Australia, Telstra was also the last to confirm its plans).
However, none of the companies have yet confirmed their pricing or other details. Optus has a media launch for its iPhone 3GS plans on Monday morning, and it seems unlikely that Vodafone will wait much no longer than that to spill the beans on its own prices. (Optus will also run an inflatable promotional booth in Sydney's First Fleet Park from Monday with a range of minor celebrities talking up the wonders of all things iPhone.)
Last year's iPhone launches were also marked by delayed pricing information, but even so, one week out there was much more information in the market. One possible reason for the delay (apart from typical Apple paranoia) is that many iPhone enthusiasts will still be on contract, and thus not racing to pick up a new model just yet, no matter how much they drool.
Apart from a revised design and claimed performance and battery improvements, a big selling point for iPhone 3GS is the iPhone 3.0 operating system, which became available for download for all iPhone owners earlier this week. The big controversy in this area is over 3.0's ability to use the iPhone easily as a tethered modem for connecting your PC. Optus has already confirmed that it will charge $9.99 a month for users to access that facility, a move widely regarded as greedy and/or stupid, and Telstra is rumoured to have similar plans.
Many users have set up workarounds to enable tethering for each Australian iPhone carrier, and Nick at Gizmodo has a useful walkthrough. It remains unclear how effective any workarounds these will be for Optus customers once it officially starts charging for tethering on March 22.
Even without public pricing, I can confidently predict that just like last time, early 3GS adopters will end up paying a hefty premium. The best-value iPhone 3G plans emerged some weeks after the launch, and this time will surely be no different.