In Germany, T-Mobile has announced that it will sell Apple's iPhone without requiring customers to sign a long-term phone contract. There's only one catch: It'll cost Germans 999 euros, or $1,465!
T-Mobile is Apple's chosen one in Germany, the carrier that Steve Jobs selected to be the exclusive iPhone provider for the entire nation. Various European telecom firms have won this privilege across the continent -- the carrier O2 has iPhone exclusivity in the U.K., and in France, Orange won rights to Apple's shiny device.
The carriers saw gold in the iPhone. They were expecting that just like in the U.S., where you've got to sign a two-year contract with AT&T to get the phone, Europeans would be forced into long-term deals for the iPhone.
But Europe has something America lacks -- consumer protection laws. Last month a court in France forced Orange to promise to sell an unlocked version of the phone there when it hits store shelves later this month.
Now the same thing has happened with T-Mobile in Germany. The legal battle began last week, when Vodaphone, a rival cell carrier, filed suit alleging that T-Mobile's exclusive deal violated local laws. The court ruled that T-Mobile must offer the phone to everyone -- hence its announcement today.
While 999 euros is a lot of euros, that's still less than the price of an iPhone under contract. A T-Mobile contract costs at least 1,176 euros for a couple years of cell service, and on top of that you've got to pay 399 euros for the phone. That's grand total of 1,575 euros, or $2,308 -- $843 more than for the phone alone.
Of course, if you get an unlocked phone, you've still got to pay for service for it. Can you do that for $843 (over two years) in Germany? Perhaps you could, but it'd likely be a stretch, especially if you want a data plan.
Well, but that's what competition's all about, isn't it? Maybe Vodaphone will come out with a cheap plan for iPhone users who defect from T-Mobile. And then everyone wins! (Oh, well, except for T-Mobile.)