The Dangers of getting an iPhone without a data plan/pack

So Singtel finally released the iPhone. While they are touting their iFlexi plans, they also had the courtesy to make the iPhone available to new and existing customers with voice-only plans, such as the iOne, iTwo and iThree plans (which I got) and the classic plans. Singtel also kindly “suggested” that customers who opted for the above plans get a Broadband on Mobile (BBoM) plan for the data usage, but does not force it onto their customers.

Is it really a good idea to do that (read: get an iPhone plan that is voice only and not data)?

Let us think about the charges of mobile data for Singtel and other local telcos. Typically, when one gets a 3G phone and does not sign up for any mobile data plan, he/she will be put on a “use-as-you-pay” data plan where data can cost around ten singapore dollars per MB, yes that’s correct, ten dollars per MEGABYTE, not GIGABYTE.

Up till now, it does not pose a problem for most 3G phone users for the phones on the market are not capable of using up much data. So even if someone managed to use up a few hundred kilobytes of data through careless exploration of their “3G services” (not really anywhere near decent), it will just be a few dollars over their standard handphone bill.

Now the iPhone comes into the picture. Thanks to its sheer popularity, even Aunties, Uncles, Grandpas, Grandmas and the general tech idiots are buying up the phones like nobody’s business. This is where the problem comes in. The iPhones in Singapore, like the other official ones elsewhere in the world, are pre-configured to use data even if a data plan has not been purchased, for these people who signed up for the iOne plans without a data plan has already been signed up for the “pay-as-you-use” data plans. So when these uncles and aunties and the general tech idiots starts playing around with their iPhones, downloading apps and stuff, serious damage in terms of data usage will be done.

Furthermore, the iPhone’s browser and other services, such as the App Store, generally requires a much higher data download rate than that of the other 3G phones. The Safari browser renders whole webpages with images and everything, the App store apps can go up to many MBs in size. “Accidental” usage can easily go up to even 100MB per month. 1MB = 10 SGD. 100MB = ? You do the math. The iPhone 2.0 software is yet another problem. It seems to download data even when it’s in sleep mode, probably due to the MobileMe push email.

The last blow to the whole problem is that there is no way to turn off your data connection unless you call Singtel up and ask them to cancel your “pay-as-you-use” plan. Either that or you mess up the APN settings in the General Settings config page. However, for the common people and the tech idiots, they will take the “turn off 3G” setting to mean “turn off data”, which is NOT TRUE! Turning off 3G will turn on EDGE! Data will still be used!

I will be interested to see how many people will be shocked when their first month’s bill arrives in the mail. Hehz. Maybe $ingtel will have a big big big PR problem on their hands.

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  • DK

    The thing is, the iPhone isn't supposed to be used without a data plan. In fact, I'm worried about the 1GB free data. I got this feeling that a number of users will exceed this 1gb cap.

  • ryuworks

    Yup, the iPhone isn't supposed to be used without a data plan. Then again, try telling that to the thousands of aunties and uncles who bought the phone.

  • cocomi

    Hi i'm using starhub line and i'm reli pissed of with this Edge service i can't find a way to disable it, can any kind soul advise me on how can i turn off the EDGE service by messing the APN settings??!! Help i have been surfing like 3MB already i dun wan my hp bill to turn RED.. And further more i have two lines one with starhub another with Singtel.. =) Kindly advise me thank you very much! =D

  • ryuworks

    You are using a jailbroken iPhone 2G I suppose? Download Bossprefs off Cydia or Installer and turn it off. Either that go put nonsense in the APN to mess up the Edge settings so it cant connect.

  • The problem is that people are buying the iPhones because of the hype, without doing proper research. I saw some people asking why they cannot send/receive pics via bluetooth in hardwarezone forums.

    I like my iPhone 3G, although there are some limitations over my previous N95. I also think the iFlex plans are a little too unfair, allowing only 1GB monthly for the lowest priced plan, whereas pairing an iOne plus + 1000kbps BBoM plan roughly comes up to the same price, albeit with a 50GB data allowance. However, I didn't go that route as I couldn't afford the initial cost.

    iPhone is very crippled with a data plan anyway. 1GB is enough for normal google-reader-ing, youtube-ing, emailing and running a few apps on-the-go. But a bit dangerous for app downloads. A friend of mine who has the iPhone 2G with BBoM usually use 100+MB/month.

  • “iPhone is very crippled with a data plan anyway” – should be “without”. Sorry bout that..

  • Jaafar

    My real worry (having seen what's been going on in the States and Canada) runs something like this:

    1. $ingtel uses other Government-approved media outlets to bury Singapore in advertising for the iPhone. No mention is given (that Auntie would understand) why a data plan is important.
    2. The sudden and increasing data load (“ooh, an App Store!”) completely blows $ingtel's estimates of how much capacity they're going to need. Instability gets worse.
    3. $ingtel looks in the mirror and asks the Government for permission to rape these customers with humongous surcharges – the ones who didn't commit to a high-end data plan, at least. Are such “requests” ever denied?
    4. $ingtel announces the best revenue quarter in their history, due mostly to the “unforeseen” jump in 3G data billing. Meanwhile, the ah longs can't do business fast enough; call in the triads for help.
    5. Come the next quarter, $ingtel announces an “incredible, unforeseeable” drop in revenues, mainly due to the pay-as-you-go data plan usage dropping to less than a megabyte islandwide, except for a few expats and rich MNCs. Government steps in to cover $ingtel's 'tragic, unexplainable' “losses”.
    6. Singapore becomes and remains the smallest per-subscriber market for 3G data services in Asia. Competing and future 3G phone models sell well into the double digits annually as nobody wants to lose their flat just to pay a phone bill.
    7. The Government calls the lack of 3G usage “a threat to Singapore's competitiveness”, pays $ingtel for the “inconvenience” of phasing out 2G phone services in favour of 3G-only. No payment is made to the customers, whose millions of 2G phones effectively become bricked.

    To those who say “there's got to be a better way to do this,” the question is, better for whom? From $ingtel's/the Government's viewpoint, this gets the most money from where it's not needed (people's bank accounts and pocketbooks) into “more appropriate” (profitable for those at the top) applications. And Singapore can still claim to be a cutting-edge technological, democratic country! What's not to like?

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  • Noor

    I bought an iphone wif singtel during the launching period.. It comes wif the I flexi plan.. My plan is the $100 per mnth wif 2gb data.. Seems to me tat if u surf net using this plan, u should be safe. In another wrds u will not pay more than wat u nedd to pay if u are jus a casual surfer.. Wanna more data stick to laptop.. Other than that the plan also have 8hrs outgoin call which is also gd enough..

  • Max

    Are you sure that the 1GB is monthly? The following line is from the SingTel website

    *For a limited time only: Customers who connect or recontract with SingTel on an iFlexi Plan will enjoy the above data allowances over the 24-month contract period.

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  • lisa

    Hi all

    I just bought an iPhone 3G with singtel's iOne plus student plan..
    By messing up the APN setting is it safe enuf to save me from 200SGD phone bills?


  • ryuworks

    It should…. Be on the safe side though. Turn off your wifi and see if you can still access websites.

  • dranleb

    call me an idiot or what for not doing any research, but im really pissed with SINGTEL!!!!
    i just receive my 1st bill yesterday, (btw i signed up for the ioneplus) and they charged me $15 for the data charges and to think that the billing period was only for 3 days!!!

    This “scam” is really unfair and has got to stop!
    SIngtel has been charged so many times with these kinds of “trickery” but nothing has been done.. (i just heard from my sister today that there was a news today that talks about the unsolicited ringback tones service of singtel where people are being charged for that service that they have not signed up for)

    i i have only talked to a cust service today and tthat was the first time i knew about these ccharges.. yes.. i really shudve done my research…

    im planning of going to a hello store tomorrow to give my very violent reactions!

    is there any authority where i can get actions on this matter?? i just hope i can recruit those aunties and uncles who got also victimized.. lol!

    sigh! and now im worried about my next bill!!

  • ryuworks

    What Singtel will say is that it's all stated in the fine print that you signed when you got your contract. Evil, but the law is on their side. Not to mention that the whole government is probably on their side. LOL.

  • matt

    hi if I use wifi to connect to wireless and surf safari using iphone, will I still be charged for data?

  • ryuworks


  • dingdongal

    Hi, I have messed up the APN and now having Iphone is like having a normal phone, because even if I try to connect to the internet it will just show that it is not subscriped to the service. Anyone knows if I put The APN back properly and uses Wifi, will they charge for the data.. Thanks

  • ryuworks

    You can connect via wifi and surf the internet even if ur APN is messed up. Wifi connections are not chargable by your cellular network providor

  • dingdongal

    but whenever I try to connect via wifi with the messed up APN, it will always show as “Could not activate cellular data network: you are not subscribed to a cellular data service.” Sighz.. so isit best to jail break the phone? or is there other ways?

  • ryuworks

    Are you sure you have turned on your wifi? Looks like you didnt. If not the wifi access point you are connecting to has prbs.

  • dingdongal

    Ya I got, i tried it at starbucks, mac and at home. it is all the same. haiz. so I am pretty stuck.

  • ryuworks

    Looks like you might have a hardware prb…. Where did you buy the phone from?

  • dingdongal

    Singtel.. then should i bring in to apple and check?

  • ryuworks

    Might be a good idea. Are you a student? Maybe you can ask your school's Mac club to help?

  • dingdongal

    no i am not a student. maybe I will bring in over the weekend. Thanks Anyway, do U tink they will actually ask me to set the APN back again?

  • dingdongal

    I got one more question. should I sent to singtel or the apple service center to check? Thanks.

  • nuridayana

    Hi there…

    I'm buying an iPhone soon.. What is e best plan to choose?

    I love surfing the internet.. Pls help as I don't want to get overbilled, hahaha..


  • taylor_t5

    hi , may i noe if u buy the iphone 3gs with ione plus plan , does the phone have wifi function?? because i am confused , i went to a singtel shop today they tell me no wifi function ..wth. thanks.

  • It depends. iFlexi Lite only has 500MB. If you are a heavy data user get an iOne plan with a BBOM Plus or something. The BBOM plus should get you another discount off the phone if you sign a contract for it.

  • Yes there is wifi. Don't worry. Singtel pple sometimes(often) are dumb. Remember to request that they cancel your GPRS if you don't want bills of few hundred dollars as the iPhone will sometimes automatically connect to the internet via GPRS without you knowing it.

  • taylor_t5

    orh ok thanks .. cancel gprs wun affect the wifi ?? sorry i nvr use iphone b4 hehe.btw m1 launching iphone soon? will it be cheaper ?

  • Thanks man, just what I was looking for. Thanks so much…

  • Jane Doe1

    What you mean it is not suppose to be use without a data plan? I'm using it to do all kind of iPhone-related things, networking, facebooking twittering, etc. The fact is I don't want to do it on 3G or GPRS. WiFi only. I'm a consumer (or customer). I'm always right.

  • Jane Doe1

    not true. still have lots of fun with iPhone + Wifi. You don't need the 3G or GPRS plan. Unless you are a generous donor to Telcos cause. Earning filthy money. Yup. Filthy, basically they con peoples money by activating the feature without peoples consent.

    You will need to call in to explicitly ask the GPRS and 3G removed! Or else, your phone will auto connect. Whatever setting you done now may not work as iPhone updates its OS regularly!

  • Jane Doe1

    True. Nothing much you can do against them. Just check who owns SingTel. You only recourse is to change Telcos. M1 is better in this respect. Also, you can now move your number to another Telco. So very little incentive to stick with current Telco. Unless, you still got a very long way to go before your contract expire. My take is always change telcos. Don't preach loyalty. Only by doing so, telcos will change behavior for the better. Loyalty gets you nothing in this modern coniving consumerism market.

  • sebastianlow

    thanks for telling me on how to off the data plan by messing up the APN setting… it have save me many money

  • What I can say is very nice and helpful as well as informative post…really help me very much more!! Thanks..

  • Jovial

    I was hesitating to get the iphone 3Gs. I have heard most of the iphone user has complaint their Singtel Bill suddenly went up to $150 to $200 unexpectedly. Looking at the iFlex Value plan $56/mth with 12GB free local data, will this help to save the cost?

    Should I keep my Nokia N95-8GB or Samsung Ominia i900?

  • you know, I really hate such things. I disable the data function, but keep on pop up message to show me the ” could not activate cellular data network”

  • Meow

    Connecting to the internet via WiFi is free – but note that at some locations, the WiFi singnals may be weak (as with all wireless connection), and during periods of signal loss, the phone would automatically switch to GPRS intermittenly (and that’s where the charging really starts). But once one disable GRPS, MMS feature on the phone would fail to work.


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