Ever since Apple announced that they're cutting US$200 from the iPhone's price and lowering the iPhone 3G down to US$199, people have been rumbling about how the increased AT&T data plan price negates any savings you get up front on the phone. Screams of "IT'S NOT ACTUALLY CHEAPER, APPLE IS FOOLING US" has us wondering about how much more you're really paying over 2 years compared to the old iPhone or similarly-featured 3G smartphones on AT&T and other providers. Here's what we found.
Over two years, the iPhone 3G will cost US$160 more over the original iPhone. This includes the unlimited data plan plus the additional US$5 SMS plan you need to get to match the original's 200 included messages. What the chart doesn't indicate, in pure dollars, is how much 3G is worth.
Compared to a similar 3G phone on AT&T, the iPhone 3G costs exactly the same over two years as AT&T's HTC Tilt (minus US$100 for the increased initial phone price). Compared to Sprint, you're coming out slightly behind by US$20 because of Sprint's included unlimited SMS/MMS, but unlimited 3G data still costs the same US$30. Verizon's data and texting plan is also on par with AT&T's, and you get an extra 50 text messages.
So what can we conclude? Yes, the iPhone 3G will cost you US$160 more than the original iPhone over two years. If you don't need 3G at all (or GPS), you might not need to upgrade if you've got an old one. Otherwise, $160 is a small price to pay—for us at least—over the course of 2 years to drastically increase your email and browsing speeds.