Imagine if you bought a car in 2008 for $20,000, and the factory said, as an owner of the car, you could only drive it on certain freeways, and only purchase accessories or upgrades at the factory store, and only buy gas at certain service stations, or it would invalidate your warranty.
Under those rules, you are contractually bound to own the car for 2 years and pay $5,000 a month to the service station. If you want to get out of the contract, you must pay the service station another $40,000 in payments, or, as an alternative, you may trade in your car for the next year’s model at $20,000 and start the 2 year contract counter over again.
Now let’s say after 3 years, the car maker tells you they are discontinuing that car’s model and won’t honor warranties, make repairs, or provide any kind of support anymore. Your option is to use what remaining time you have on the contract, pay off the service station, or trade it in for a new model and service contract. You only have a few months to decide on the later option, they won’t honor the exchange past a certain date.
A number of people complained on the factory’s message forum about this, however, since the car maker wants everyone to believe they are all one big happy family, they delete the complaints and insist on covering up the fact that new models highly-touted bugfixes and software updates aren’t entirely backwards compatible with the older ones, even though customers know the car drives sluggish and has failures when the updated running software is applied to their vehicle.
That sounds like a disaster doesn’t it? Of course, we aren’t talking cars worth tens of thousands of dollars, only a cell phone worth hundreds of dollars, well, ok, thousands of dollars over the life of the iPhone contract. The analogy of the car-maker is Apple, and the car, of course the iPhone. The service station, let’s call that the carrier you are locked into using, for example AT&T, Telus, Rogers, etc — in this case, the data you get from the provider is the “gas” or “service” of the vehicle. And the factory store? That is apple’s App Store for software, or the Apple Store for hardware. Taking you car to another service station, or switching carriers, this has to be done by “unlocking” the device with apps such as ultrasn0w, and getting software from a repository other than the iOS App Store, for example using Cydia and the debian-Linux based repositories, that requires you “jailbreak” the phone, in other words open up the operating system for user-installed features. Those things invalidate your warranty. Apple doesn’t like people mucking about under the hood of their car. They get a cut from all the phone companies under contract with their iPhone users, so they don’t want you scrambling away from their profit-share.
Sure, I was able to unlock and jailbreak my discontinued iPhone 3G, and I paid my way out of my AT&T contract to end it before the time was up. This was mainly because I moved out of the country though, it didn’t have anything to do with my desires as a iPhone hacker or modify my phone or anything, it was mere necessity. Even though there was nothing wrong with my iPhone 3G at the time, when I came up to Canada, Telus wanted me to exchange my 3G for a 3GS which was locked into their network, and sign a new 3 year contract. That, I surely didn’t want to do. I didn’t know if I was going to stay in Canada or move to the UK or go back to the US or who knows what, where, what kind of job I would get. I believe Rogers (another carrier here) has a similar contractual requirement with their iPhones. That, and I currently live in a rural area and there is no 3G service out here, it hasn’t been built yet. It would behoove me NOT to pay $50 a month for a data service that I can’t use.
Is the iPhone 3G an old device? Sure, it is. Are there new phones available? Why, yes, there is the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4, and soon to come will be the iPhone 5 whatever that becomes. There are also a number of good Android based phones out there too with comparable features. Maybe they aren’t as nice as the iPhone 4’s 720p HD video and 960×640 pictures, but I’m not paying for that. Yes, Apple in Canada offers you the iPhone 3GS with no contract for $549, or you can buy a 16Gb iPhone 4 for $659, or a 32Gb iPhone 4 for $779. Or I could snag one at a local contract-enabled phone carrier for $199. No thanks!
Hey, I already have a 60Gb iPod Video, yes, it’s discontinued too, but I’m not paying $429 for a new 64Gb iPod Touch or even $279 for a 160Gb iPod, when the one I have still plays tunes perfectly fine.
Alright, that’s all I am going to say about that. If someone just outright gave me a iPhone 4 I wouldn’t complain, of course, I would use it. If money was no object, like when I was making $120k a year and could buy any early adopter device or new car whenever the whim inspired me, then yes I’d already have them, and would be driving a new MINI Cooper S AWD Countryman, but, now we’re self-employed and watching every dollar. My google adsense hasn’t made me an internet millionaire yet and I’m not holding my breath for those $1,000+ weekly checks rolling in either.. blah blah blah.
I like my iPhone 3G, I’m keeping it. Perhaps someone will get sick of their iPhone 4 and pass it along to me, or maybe I’ll get some other Android device (I do like many of the iPhone apps, for sure, and the interface is nice enough to use, but then so is Android).