Help! My iPhone is burning a hole in my pocket

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A pricey handset and a costly contract are only the beginning of an expensive love affair, says Tim Walker

The man on the other end of the phone sounds desperate. "Can I ask why you want to leave [mobile phone provider other than O2]?" he says. Yes, I tell him. I'm afraid I want to buy an iPhone – and I've been waiting for my contract with you to end for some time so that I can do just that. "But," he pleads, probably not for the first time today, "we have phones that are better and cheaper!"

The sad thing is I believe him – well, the "cheaper" part, anyway. "I'm sure you do," I reply soothingly, trying to soften the blow of my departure. I've gladly remained with the same network for about 11 years, the entirety of my mobile phone-bearing career; but, as I tell the increasingly-agitated customer services representative, the allure of the glowing white apple has me hooked. Until the recent introduction of the new 3GS handset, it felt like a niche product. Now, however, half of my friends have one. The iPhone has reached its tipping point, and I have to own one, too.

That means switching to O2, which (so far) retains its exclusivity deal with Apple in the UK. What O2 doesn't tell you, however, is that after you've signed up with them – for about £15 more per month than I was previously paying – your iPhone will continue to cost you money. Lots of money. I don't blame the company, though, only myself; the iPhone is a desire, not a necessity, as are all its added costs.

As an O2 spokesperson assures me, the iPhone is "a revolutionary device that is far beyond just a mobile". With a phone, MP3 player, camera, web browser and email inbox, plus free, unlimited Wi-Fi and data, it's a mini computer that makes my netbook (the last tech bandwagon I just had to leap onboard) essentially redundant. Don't get me wrong, I love the thing, but I have consumer anxiety nonetheless.

The £87.11 I pay for the 3GS and the £34.26 per month tariff are only the beginning. First of all, I have to sign a two-year contract. Of course O2 wants to ensure they recoup the costs of subsidising the iPhone for its customers, but they also know mugs like me love shiny technological gizmos enough to lock themselves in until 2011. And since I'm convinced that, during its lengthy lifespan, this digitally-intricate little bundle of joy will develop a few health problems, I add £10 of insurance costs to my monthly bill.

For the same reason, I go straight out and buy a rubber sheath to protect it from bumps and grazes. It's white, which should be deeply Apple-retro (and match my MacBook laptop). Instead it looks rubbishy and cheap and contains at least one crucial design flaw – the rubber covers the earpiece, making telephone calls somewhat lopsided. So I go out and spend another £20 on a different case.

Once you start collecting iPhone accessories, you could go on forever. Belkin, one of the leading manufacturers of computing peripherals, has a range of iPhone add-ons including everything from cases and sports armbands to extra electronic devices such as headphones splitters, FM radio transmitters and portable chargers. The company is the biggest player in an iPhone/iPod accessories market that Gary Tubb, Belkin's Managing Director for the UK and Ireland, estimates is worth approximately £50m.

"It's been huge for us as a business," says Tubb. "Wherever there's an iPhone accessory to be had, you'll find the Belkin brand. The more successful Apple is, the more successful we are. There are some brands who do nothing but create accessories for the iPod and iPhone."

Once you've got all your peripherals sorted, it's time to start acquiring applications. There will probably be 100,000 iPhone apps on sale by the end of 2009, and apps downloads from Apple's App Store recently passed 1.5bn. To begin with I add only free apps to my iPhone and find it scarily straightforward.

They were enough to keep me occupied for all of about 10 days, until a colleague tells me about WunderRadio, which would allow me to listen to Radio 4 while showering after my cycle to work. That sets me back £3.99, which on its own doesn't sound like much, but I dread the day I wake up after one too many drinks to find I've binged on the likes of Sonic The Hedgehog (£3.49) or Let's Golf! (£1.19).

All the while I'm worrying that, over the next two years, other, better, devices will appear on the market, and I won't be able to get my hands on them. "Right now, the iPhone is the benchmark for such devices," says Tony Cripps, an analyst with technology consultancy Ovum. "But some of the recent devices with the Android operating system are pretty good, too. And they ought to end up having a more widespread appeal, because in time there will be more devices with that software platform. Apple has the most apps now, and a head start on the work Android, Nokia and Microsoft are all trying to do, but they're all heading in the same direction and the others will quickly mature."

Any phone with iPhone-like capabilities remains fairly expensive, but it's fair to say the deals being offered by T-Mobile and Orange for the HTC Hero handset (aka the G2 Touch), which uses the Android OS, are more competitive than my iPhone deal. They're cheaper than my iPhone. Could they be better? And never mind Android phones. If I'm stuck with my 3GS for two whole years, won't a better model – or two, or three – come off the Apple conveyor belt in that time?

The original G iPhone had to be bought separately of the network contract. Its successor, the 3G, was subsidised by O2, but customers with a G were allowed to upgrade early. When the 3GS was released this summer, users were denied the same automatic upgrade, much to their disappointment. O2 insists, however, that anyone spending over £35 per month on their contract can indeed upgrade early from the 3G to the 3GS – between one and six months early, depending on how much they spend.

There are, reportedly, "4G" prototypes in existence. One Chinese Apple worker committed suicide last month after the 4Gs for which he was responsible went missing. Do I really want to spend more to guarantee myself a 4G upgrade in, say, a year's time?

Cripps tries to reassure me. "The key to these devices is that the software is upgraded remotely by the manufacturer over time," he explains. "When you eventually give up your iPhone 3GS, it won't be the same device you started with. Apple have updated the firmware on the iPhone already, and each time that happens you ought to see a marked improvement in your handset.

"It's no accident that all iPhones to date look the same. Apple could go the other way and have endless handset designs, but then developers would have to make content that ran on different devices, with subtly different software and requirements.

"In order to produce the iPhone's tidy, integrated environment, Apple has simplified the OS and limited the freedom they have in terms of hardware design – but that's probably a good idea. If you're concerned that within two years a next generation iPhone will come along that makes you say, 'Ooh, I have to have that,' I don't think that problem will arise."

Mobile must-haves? The iPhone accessories you never knew you needed

iWood

Not satisfied with rubber or plastic? Never fear; you could also encase your precious iPhone in mahogany, courtesy of the iWood, a hard case available in six different woods, for only 70 quid. A wooden iPhone pouch is in the works, too. Miniot.com

Gelaskins

Isn't your iPhone beautiful enough for you already? No? Then you need to personalise it with these wraparound iPhone stickers. They even come with matching downloadable wallpapers. Make your handset unique! (Or, at least, as unique as every other item in the world with a Keith Haring-inspired design on it.) Gelaskins.com

Lego speakers

Maybe you've already got some speakers for your iPhone. But I'll bet you don't have speakers that look like Lego bricks. Who cares what the sound quality's like, they look awesome ... Coolest-gadgets.com

iPhone Stylus

Are your hands too chubby to manage your touch screen's qwerty keyboard? Why not buy yourself a stylus, specially designed for the iPhone? It's better than your fingers. Until, of course, you want to use the double touch function to zoom in or out. But hey, why not buy two? Uk-mobilestore.co.uk

Charging shelf

Don't you just hate having to find a socket with a suitable spot nearby to rest your iPhone while it charges? Now you won't have to, thanks to this handy charging shelf. It comes in seven colours – including mango! Charmingcards.com

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor