Should you buy an iPhone 3G from Maxis?

The whole of the Malaysian Twitter scene is abuzz with the official launch of the iPhone 3G by Maxis in Malaysia. Now, you can see the i-Value Plan with a 12 month contract, i-Value Plan with a 24 month contract, and the more sensible Value Plus Plans with a 6 month contract. Such is life, where Maxis released some data, then pulled the main page, as pre-orders are meant to close by midnight, on the 12th of March.

Should one buy an iPhone 3G today?
Barring the prices, and the plans, should one get an iPhone 3G? If you’ve been waiting and lusting for it, there’s a chance you’ll jump to the pre-order. If you’re on a disposable income, there’s a chance you’ll jump to the pre-order. But what about the rest of us, that actually work hard for our money? Is the iPhone 3G worth it?

First up, know that this current iPhone 3G model was released in mid-year 2008. Apple has an uncanny mechanism for refreshing their hardware, at least once every year, and rumours will always exist, stating that the next refresh will come in June/July 2009. In fact, this isn’t even hearsay – check out what the Mac Buyers Guide for the iPhone says.

Also, remember the current iPhone 3G has limitations, namely a horrible camera, the lack of MMS (meaning Maxis can’t spam you as much, so it might work out to be a bonus), and no video calls. Don’t forget, as a Malaysian, you will have access to the iTunes AppStore to buy apps, but there is currently, no iTunes Music Store.

Then, you should think about support. If your Nokia fails today, you can take it to many authorised dealers, or to Nokia themselves. While Apple has an online store, they only have Apple Premium Authorised Resellers in Malaysia today. This means, that getting simple things done, can take a week or two, in terms of turnaround time. Can you live without a phone for that long?

In conclusion, knowing that the iPhone 3G is probably ready for an update in about 3-4 months, has got deficiencies, and you’re going to be finding it more difficult to get support, if you’re getting one from Maxis, you might consider their 6-month contract, if you like to live on the edge.

Should one buy an iPhone 3G today, from Maxis?
Looking at their rate plans, this is a tough question.

A 12-month contract costs anywhere between RM100-RM375, in where you buy the iPhone 3G 8GB for anywhere between RM1900-RM1080, or the iPhone 3G 16GB for anywhere between RM2290-RM1470. Know that your total commitment ranges from RM1200 – RM4500, not including the cost of the phone. Data isn’t unlimited – you’re going from 500MB-3GB, and you are billed on “minutes” instead of calling blocks (so 333-2,500 minutes per month).

If you’re crazy enough to stretch this out to 24-months (that’s two years people), suddenly the 8GB model comes down to RM1,510-RM0 (yes, a free phone) or the 16GB model comes down to RM1890-RM260. Nothing in the plan changes, per se, except the term of your contract, so your commitment level now becomes RM2400 – RM9000 over 2 years.

Note that these sneaky buggers also ask you to pay an “advance deposit” to ensure you are a Maxis customer for a while.

Also, it looks like if you need more data, you have to shell out the tiny sum of RM99/month. On an iPhone, you tend to need more data. Because with the lack of MMS, getting things out of your phone is just an “e-mail message away” — that becomes the new MMS.

Today, I am already on a plan with Maxis. The Value Plus 80, which I always think I might increase to 150 or 250 even. Maxis plans to continue that, for folk with deeper pockets, with their Value Plus plans. Why deeper pockets? Because the 8GB model costs RM2,540 and the 16GB one costs RM2,960. And you get a meagre 500MB of data free, so you’ll definitely be getting the RM99 unlimited data plan.

Now, back in January, I wrote about price comparisons and where to buy an iPhone 3G in Malaysia. RM2,899 (8GB) and RM3,099 (16GB), unlocked, from iWorld. Today, I moseyed over there to see them having a “spring sale”, and it now costs a mere RM2,999 for a 16GB model, completely unlocked. Sure, you’re worried about warranties, but you’re not much better off, from buying it from Maxis.

Compare that: RM2,999 vs RMRM2,960. RM39 is the difference, you save with Maxis. But the grief of going to the Maxis store, parking there, dealing with not-so-clever support “professionals”. No contracts. Completely unlocked phone. Delivered to your house, the next morning. I’d pick iWorld.

In conclusion, is it wise to get on a Maxis plan? Probably not. They’re fleecing you, the customer. If you’re going to pay so much for the phone, you shouldn’t be locked into such an expensive contract. You should be free to move over to DiGi when they launch better services.

As a Maxis customer, know that their 3G data service quality is questionable. Also know that their customer service is lacking.

Note that you can also get units like the ones from iWorld, completely unlocked and available for you, around Low Yat, for a few hundred ringgit cheaper. I’m just stating my experience with them, that’s all.

Anything else?
Well, its unclear if the Maxis iPhone 3G units are completely unlocked, or if they’re SIM locked to Maxis for the period of the contract.

With MNP in place, and competition rife, I’m surprised Apple Malaysia didn’t pull a stunt like what they did in Hong Kong – sell completely unlocked units, and let the people choose.

Apple is planning an event towards the end of March, that may announce some changes to the iTunes Store, which may mean that Malaysians get to buy music, and other content. This is how Apple makes residual income from the sale of an iPhone — they don’t really care for the carrier profits, now do they?

I don’t forsee many Malaysian’s shelling out cash for apps in the AppStore, with the way the USD-MYR rates are going. They’ll use it, but they’ll get the free apps. I can’t blame them. Apple doesn’t release sales metrics for their AppStore by region, but if they did, we could come up with a better analysis.

In “high society” (middle class and above, I use the term loosely), seeing an iPhone is very common. Whether its the older model, or the 3G model, its almost everywhere. So again, it depends on the “disposability” of your income.

So, would you buy an iPhone 3G in Malaysia, from Maxis?

Update: Maxis has pulled down details of their rate plans. Its OK, Twitter points me to this link, in where you can see the rate plans for yourself.
Update 2: Apparently, according to a LowYat.Net forum moderator @andrewkjs, they had a post with the pricing and were given a call by the friendly lawyers at Maxis, and given a takedown notice. Tsk tsk. IANAL, but you don’t need to comply with phone requests. Written emails are much better – you can publish them too :-) Also, another site, that is carrying some iPhone information is MyMacBUZZ, run by my friend @blogjunkie, including things like internal discounts, and more.
Update 3: An enterprising fellow has posted a spreadsheet analysing the iPhone pricing, and how much the total cost of ownership really is (a little further down, he talks about Celcom/DiGi and more… so I haven’t verified the numbers, per se, YMMV). Conclusion? Malaysians get a raw deal in comparison to Hong Kong or Singapore (heck, even New Zealand, from what I gather).
Update 4: Its a little after 3pm, and the site seems to be back up. Book until 17th March 2009, and you’ll get invited to the launch held at the KL Convention Centre from 20-22 March 2009. I have a feeling a launch itself cannot take several days, so this event must be more “open to all”. T&C is not available, but an FAQ is. Read it! Note that Visual Voicemail will not be available, and “On launch, customers will not be able to buy content from the iTunes store.” Remember, Maxis 3G network isn’t up to scratch, so contracting and finding out it will suck at home, is going to be a big deal for many. I predict more complaints written to SKMM/MCMC about this at some stage, if the uptake is great.
Maxis - iPhone

  • I’ll be waiting for the Nokia N97 :) IMHO it’s still better to stick with an iPod touch and a decent phone.

    Plus the Maxis plans just price most people out the market.

    • Yup. Get a decent phone – say an e-series device from Nokia, get JoikuSpot, ad use the iPod Touch :-)

      And if Maxis thinks people are going to jump on the bandwagon that quickly, they’re mistaken. Its just too expensive, and an unlocked unit is probably a better deal, anyway.

  • Good post, thanks for that.

    I for one, won’t be getting it at the moment, reasons being pretty much the same as what you listed above, the plans, the possibility of iPhone updates mid-year, and I’ve already spent a fortune on my current mobile, which can pretty much do what I need, but with MMS + video call + good camera (minus the iPod feature, don’t care, got an iPod Touch).

    • Yup. I think its a sin to pay so much for a phone, that is likely to be outdated in 3-4 months. And then, be locked into a contract you can’t get out of, cheaply.

  • hey.. the maxis link is not working

    • Yes, they’ve since taken the links down. Let me find people with screenshots and update the post

  • I think you’re underestimating the value of a Maxis warranty. Having a dead iworld phone on the first week would really kill my day =)

    • 7-days DOA warranty?

      I have a feeling that a Maxis warranty isn’t much better. They can’t do anything themselves. They’ll have to send it elsewhere to get it fixed. And I doubt you’d get a 1-to-1 unit replacement either – Maxis is in this to make a lot of money from you, not excellent customer service (trust me, look at all the complaints about Maxis online…)

  • Great summary Colin!

  • Carolyn Chan

    Thanks for doing the math for us Colin. There’s really nothing compelling in their plan to make me want to jump through hoops to book an iPhone. It’s too little, too late. Not crazy about iWorld’s price either but between the two, yes buying from iWorld makes more sense than buying from Maxis.

  • CIT

    I guess Unca Ununda wants to topple Unca KUOK on the MY Billionaires list, so this is part of his strategy!
    He is also learning fast, from his soulmate Tony F, on the ADVANCE PAYMENT biz model, used widely in the budget airline industry.
    Ridicuolous. Before making a SINGLE call, u have to cough out thousand over ringgit, whereas with other makes, u can grab a phone with EZ Payment scheme!
    Not smart for CONSUMER cashflow!
    This is just IMHO!
    Just wait for Garmin-Asus Nuvifone or Palm Pre! NO STRINGS ATTACHED!

  • Good read, feel free to read about my vents here:

    http://malaysiacrunch.blogspot.com/2009/03/maxis-unveils-iphone-3g.html

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  • Packer

    I traded in my Nokia N70 for the 16G Iphone 3G and top up with RM2,500 in Low Yat.

    My Nokia N70 is worth RM300 in trade in value. So basically, it’s RM2,800.

    Mine is not a factory un-locked Iphone. It was jailbroken and un-locked with yellowsnow.

    With firmware version is 2.2 and it’s quite stable and I have used it for two weeks with no problem.

    The retailer has installed some applications which you can download from Cydia.

    If you compare what I have paid (RM2,500 actually, coz my 3 year-old N70 is basically worthless) to the Maxis plan, the Maxis plan really suck big time.

  • Packer

    It’s not true Iphone can’t do MMS.

    There is a third party app called SwirlyMMS, but you need to pay US$8 for the license.

    Can get a cracked version for free.

    • Why pay extra to do MMS when other phones can do it for free?

      • Packer

        Iphone is about ease of use and innovation. The best touch phone money can buy.

        Iphone never known to have the most functionality.

        If you need a phone to do MMS then don’t buy Iphone as a cheap Nokia will do the trick really well.

  • Is this sort of too expensive too late?
    Just why doesn’t Maxis look into getting Palm Pre as soon as it get launched this year or at least an HTC Dream, Android phone?

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  • I’m an Iphone 2G owner. For a long time I’ve been asking Apple when they’re going to bring it to Malaysia and they said soon. I finally gave up and bought mine for cheap in London when they were clearing out their stock before introducing the 3G model.

    Now that I’ve had it for almost a year now, I don’t think this Iphone is for everyone. For one, to use the phone to its full capabilities, you would have to jailbreak the phone. From what I understand from the Maxis contract, jailbreaking it would void the warranty. So it’s back to square one, getting an unlocked phone without a warranty.

    The only thing I want from maxis now is an unlimited data package. I recently subscribed to their RM99 package and reduced my plan to RM30(I hardly make any voice calls). I find that I surf the net a lot with the Iphone. If I can their RM80 ringgit I-plan with the free 500MB without the Iphone that would be great.

    I wouldn’t recommend the Iphone unless you really want one. Better with the Samsung Omnia. Almost the same features and don’t have to jailbreak it. I use the Iphone because of work, I have occasionally have to show clients video on the phone. No other phone has a screen that large with that clarity.

    • Packer

      Agreed with you that without jailbreaking the Iphone you are limited to standard Iphone app or app from App Store.

      Buying the app from App Store can be expensive, although some app are FOC.

      Certain app simply not available in App Store and you need to get it from Cydia which required you to jailbreak you Iphone.

      If you need a phone that does anything, Samsung Omnia is a better choice.

      However, the touch in Omnia left much for desire. In certain screens it would be best if you can use a styles.

      If you like touching with your fingers without styles, then Iphone multi-touch is still the best around.

      Also a good idea to have unlimited data package, if you are using Iphone. This is because a lot of app need to access to internet. GPRS data is expensive with Maxis. Few seconds using GPS can cost you a few RM. I think, the rate is 100KB/RM1.

      I usually turn off 3G, EDGE and RSS using app downloaded from Cydia (another reason you need to jailbreak your Iphone and void the warranty with Maxis) until I really need it. This can prevent accidentally touching the app and incur data charges. Also, if you don’t use the app, RSS will push the data to you.

      I am considering the unlimited data package.

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  • iDa

    Very informative! thanks for info. I’ve analyzed and come to similar conclusion too.

  • Ron Chow

    Finally it is in town… Need to go book me one.

    Have been in the market for a phone since yonks and now I get what i want.

    Anyone care to join me? it’s only about RM

  • Ron Chow

    Finally it is in town… Need to go book me one.

    Have been in the market for a phone since yonks and now I get what i want.

    Anyone care to join me? it’s only about RM150 per month (inclusive of data charges)

    • Limited data charges. And why not just pick up a unit from Low Yat or iWorld or something? At least your soul isn’t bound for n-period of time for a contract?

  • omfg!!! it’s here!!! i’ve been thinking of data plans and i think maxis is offering a good one to be honest. :)

    • Have you seen data plans on DiGi or Celcom, in terms of price comparison?

      Do you also know the service quality of Maxis 3G? Its pretty abysmal.

  • Calvin F

    I agree that this is a bit too expensive too late…. I expect Maxis to revise their rates a few months down the road…I got mine, a 2G unlocked model (8Gig), almost 1-and-a-half year ago for RM 2100 at Low Yat Plaza, when it was still such an overly hyped phone. One thing i have to say though, is the phone’s built is rather sturdy. I have yet to encounter any problem with it. And i’ve dropped it on hard surfaces countless of times…not even a scratch! I guess when you buy an Apple product, one thing you can be assured of is the high quality and reliability of the product. Unlike Nokia phones…maybe that’s why there are so many repair shops catering to Nokia models…come to think of it.

  • Tom

    Thanks Colin for such a good overview. I’m tempted to sign in but Iphone + Digi 3G is sound very promising….

  • kew

    I thought my post on this topic was long, looks like yours longer.. hahaha…

    Anyway, as hip as the iphone is, the price is still turning me off… Looking at our neighbours, like Singapore and Thailand, Maxis deal is the most expensive…

  • Eric

    For me i love tis phone very much but…..
    1st i won’t buy tis phone rite now cox it doesn’t support Mms n bluetooth.
    2nd the price really cost expensive compare it from singapore n australia.
    3rd I will wait for the 3rd generation tat will be launch it soon on 17th Mar 2009. Why dun wait for tat since it more stable compare the 2nd generation.
    For me i will buy it from cambodia rather buy from Maxis its much cheaper.

  • I gave myself 8 reasons why iPhone+Maxis will fail in Malaysia.

  • nia

    hehehe… you all got fooled by Apple. Ridiculous phone with even ridiculous price tag.

    Here in japan, iPhone don’t make a hit at all. People won’t buy this phone because its not so high tech compared to Japan made phones. People just don’t like it here.

    So, what Apple do in japan to boost sales? They packed with very low price! Only around 300 yen/month for 12 months contract. Do the math. Its almost free.

    Again, you all got fooled by Apple if you bought one.

  • shahrul

    Hi, first time posting…

    About the 24 months contract and the i-value 2 plan, I’ve paid about the same amount with Celcom (RM50 + RM99(3G)) + etc) ~ RM155. And I’ve been using Celcom for almost 2 years now so for me its not really a negative factor in buying a phone. So for me I just subtract the monthly payment from the cost of buying the phone (now).

    Though I wonder whether I would push the 1GB data limit, have to try that for a month a just see since psychology speaking we tend to use something more when its new. If not the RM99 unlimited plan is the way to go *shudders*

    The RM1640+RM620 is a bit expensive to pay on day of purchase but you do get back the advance payment (after 6 months). And of course the ever looming question whether its really worth it to get an iphone. The easiness of Internet Browsing and the availability of free apps (or paid ones for that matter) for the phone are big plusses for me.

    I also own a Touch and the music, movies, TV shows and podcasts is a must with me. How many phones have that and at that price point? Sony? Blackberry? Nokia?

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  • Soon

    I think the price of iphone 3g selling in lowyat are must more expensive than those selling in lelong.com.my

    For those who want to buy iphone 3g 8G/16G you can consider to buy from lelong. for 8G software unlock are selling RM2350 ++ 8G with apple official unlock (maybe from HK) are selling at RM24++, 16G software unlock are selling from RM2500++ – RM2600++ then 16G apple official unlock (maybe from HK) are selling between RM2700++ to RM2800++

    i personally recommend pdagear at lelong, you can try to contact some other seller WHICH are VERIFIED by Lelong to get the set via COD (cash on delivery) or personally go to subang square and call this guy MR Fong 017 3440 339.

  • Colin!

    When I received a pingback from your site, I decided to just make a brief stop. Nice article you had there, and I stayed on longer than expected.

    So, the name Colin Charles sounds familiar, and I did a check and your contact was actually in my phonebook. Ah ha…you are a happy iPhone 3G camper, since Jan this year. :)

    PS : The Spring Sale pricing has already been revised recently (before the Maxis launch) to RM2,799 (UP RM2,999) for a factory unlocked 16GB. FYI.

    Cheers,
    Reno

  • Nin

    iPhone 3G update…

    As much as I want the iPhone.. this launch is a little ‘late’. Here’s my reason why I might not just yet get myself an iPhone:

    1. According to my very trusted mac sources, Apple will be releasing a major revision for the iPhone software (iPhone 3.0) sometime in July this year 2009.

    2. Theres also speculation of a possible major release of an updated iPhone (updated hardware with duo processor, better camera, higher wifi spec.. etc). This IS a major major hardware update.

    oh BTW, the iPhone 3.0 software update does support MMS, copy paste, bluetooth, internet teethering etc. So if you’re already booked your iPhone with Maxis, dont worry the current iPhone 3G is fully compatible with the upcoming 3.0 update!

    Anyway, just to update everyone. Either way, whether you choose to buy now, wait or just ignore the iPhone.. its up to you.

  • Nin

    Oh, one more thing, this is the website with some reliable Mac buying advice

    http://www.macrumors.com/

    Check out their buyer’s guide
    iPhone > Don’t buy – Updates soon

    Nice going Maxis. A little too late. But thanks anyway.. lol

  • sHin0bi

    well i definitely wont buy anything from maxis… coz its just way too expensive…

    the reason i got the iPhone is simply becoz i dun wan to carry 2 things around with me everytime… like a phone and ipod… iphone was the solution.

    3.0 coming. <3

  • Nin

    I’ve tried almost every smartphone out there.. from Palm, Backberry, LG, Samsung, SonyE, HTC to Nokia E series (PHEW! my family is gadget crazed).. I can say with confidence, despite the lack of some important features on the iPhone, it is by far the easiest and most fun pda+media+phone device out there. (we currently have 2 jb iphones n a couple of ipods around)

    We have Macs and PC’s in the house and find that the iphone does play well with Windows. The same can’t be said for the palm, windows mobile and symbian OS =(

    Anyway, back to the topic. I agree with sHin0bi. I love to get my hands on the iPhone, but seriously Maxis, the plan package is just too dang expensive, especially for something thats about to be updated in less than 4 months! I don’t think I’ll b ready too cough out that much money that soon (KA-CHING! KA-CHING!) =O lol

  • I have to agree with Nin: Windows Mobile devices never, ever play well with Windows computers. The irony of it.

  • Nin

    I hate to be a FanBoy… but with Macs, things just… work.. ALOT better.. (oh boy here comes the Redmont team) lol

    • Nin

      Oh btw, I just saw the iPhone ad on the local tv here.. lol
      Never thought I live to see the day an apple ad on the local tv here…
      Koool!!! But still maxis, too pricey!

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  • Tony

    Respect Colin,
    Your words express my true feelings.
    I do appreciate what you have wrote here.
    I have been support MAXIS for so long tot of waiting for IPHONE such a long time. FYI, before MAXIS announce the package, I knows MAXIS going to launch IPHONE in past 8 months. Therefore I wait and wait … MAXIS really makes me DOWN! I called and quarrel with those top management but no prevail.
    Most MAXIS loyalty customers guarantee stick with MAXIS service no matter what plan it is, but the result out is IPHONE which MAXIS selling is far more expensive then we get from others.
    you try ask yourself… if your IPHONE having problems. Do you think MAXIS personal will attend you 1st?
    they sure ask you to get a number sit down.. wait for your turn. Once you’re at the counter they will check this and tat. The worst let you wait couple of week until the problems solve. SO what you get was an “Idiotic”-PHONE

  • Ben

    I got a 16gb iphone 3G shipped in from the US for RM1900 including shipping. Then easily jailbroken and unlocked using Pwnage and yellowsn0w. Much better deal this way i reckon.

    • gee

      hi Ben,

      how did you buy the iphone from US? i m interested.

  • hafiz

    My experience in with Apple Japan (not malaysia):
    1. If the iphone is broken Apple will replace with new one on the spot, they not gonna repair it. My senior iphone always hang, he went to apple store and they give a him a new one without asking too much question. I myself own ipod touch. I went to apple store as my ipod cannot charge, they give me a new one also plus the warranty also extended 1 month.

  • This comes a little bit late, I know. :)

    The more I look at the iPhone packages, the more ridiculous I think the plans are. Not only one is paying almost 2 times more than the cost of an “illegal” iPhone, the basic features are not up to par compared to most phone’s. It’s more for the cool/wow factor when you use the iPhone, but iPhone is so common these days that it’s not cool anymore.

    Comparing plan with plan, I think Digi’s phone bundle plans are more “reasonable”. A simple survey on the street price for the phones available, you can see that Digi isn’t trying that hard/obvious to rip you off. The phones are actually cheaper when you opt for the correct plan.

    For my case, the SE W760i does go cheaper as my average monthly usage fee is between RM50 to RM600. I get almost RM150 off (comparing to its RPP) and just slightly above the street price (about RM10). Sounds fair to me. :)

    Anyway, back to the point, should you buy Maxis iPhone? Nope, not now, but probably later when iPhone isn’t that exclusive anymore.


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