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Thousands rise to rage at iPhone pricing (which is actually not that many people) [UPDATED]

June 9, 2009 | 10:48 pm

In a reminder that spurned gadget lovers can quickly turn rabid, several thousand angry iPhone owners in the U.S. and U.K. have signed a pair of Twitter petitions to protest pricing regimes for Apple's new iPhone 3G S. In the U.S., those currently under two-year contract by AT&T must pay  $200 more than for the new phones than customers not under contract.

Twitter petition
Screen shot of a Twitter petition.

That means $499 for the top-of-the-line 32-gigabyte iPhone 3G S and $399 for the 16-GB version, rather than $299 and $199 respectively, the prices for those with no existing contract.  If you want to buy the phone with no contract at all, it's a piggy-bank-breaking $699 and $599.

(In the name of fairness, it should be noted that this movement comprises a vanishingly small fraction of iPhone 3G owners. The company has sold more than 15 million of the second-generation devices since their release last summer.)

In a typical complaint on the AT&T message boards, user apw34 seethed, "This is ridiculous and slap [sic] in the face to long time loyal iphone customers. . . . We have to mount a vigorous campaign to change this policy."

"Longtime iPhone customer" is a borderline oxymoron, however. The phone debuted only two years ago at a price point of $599 for the first 8-GB phone, or $399 for the 4-GB -- contract or no. Moreover, customers who purchased those original models in 2007 would now find themselves eligible for the discounted, new-contract pricing. 

Unless Apple decides to institute a quick price reduction -- a move it made soon after the 2007 release (triggering another mini-outrage), customers who expect to be exempted from their contracts may find themselves bound by their own signatures.

"Why should the iPhone be any different than any other ATT phone?" argued user kgipp. "Your reasoning would imply that anyone that has had a Blackberry should be able to upgrade to a new Blackberry anytime they want. What would be the point of offering incentives such as discounted phone prices if they're just going to keep making exceptions?"

Indeed, discounting new handsets to new or out-of-contract customers has long been part of mobile providers' strategy to filch market share from competitors. 

But before you try telling that to the owners of the now-outmoded iPhone 3G -- who woke up Monday to find themselves in possession of a 12-month-old relic that is slightly slower than the new version, not to mention lacking its compass and video camera -- make sure to strap on your helmet.

Corrected, 12:16 a.m.: An earlier version of the post used prices from Apple's iPhone "Apple Store" page, which currently states that existing AT&T customers will pay $699 for the 32GB iPhone 3G S and $599 for the 16GB.  An AT&T representative, however, told the Times that the actual prices will be $200 more for customers under contract, not $400. 

-- David Sarno

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