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.


MacRyu is the Mac Blog by Singaporeans and for Singaporeans. It was started in April 2007 as a side project of the then President of the Official Mac User Group of NUS, Ryu, and grew to become possibly one of the most popular Apple-related sites based in Singapore. MacRyu hopes to provide you with more Mac-related info, thoughts and stuff, from the Singaporean perspective.

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