The Max Attacks: Why you can't have the iPhone 5


Yeah you want the shiny new model, but you’ll pay a fearsome price

iPhone 5

The new Apple iPhone 5 launches today.

I know you want one.

I want one too.

But there’s something getting in the way. A big hairy behemoth of an industry that wants to fleece you of your cash before you can get your hands on this shiny new electronic gizmo.

They are doing it because they can.

They seem to have no meaningful intervention from Ofcom and although not a monopoly, they often behave as if they were. They have snared and trapped you. And with this new piece of glittering technology they want to seduce you. Again. Did I mention that I WANT ONE?

The new iPhone 5 is evolution if not revolution of the biggest selling smartphone on the market.

I know it doesn’t have the technology for smart payments and the battery life isn’t as good as you’d like, but it’s still the smartphone every other manufacturer wants to emulate.

The seamless engineering of the hardware and software combined with the myriad of apps, the iTunes store and cloud storage. It’s just brilliant.

Anyone who asks you why you’d want an iPhone doesn’t have an iPhone. It’s simply the best on the market. End of. Not interested in any debate. It just is.

So what’s my beef?

It’s not with Apple. While I have my concerns about their longer-term future, with shares at over $700 a pop, for now, this company is motoring. And as the first company to design hardware with software they have cracked a nut that was both hard and technologically elusive.

But unfortunately the wheels fall off when it comes to the mobile telephone service providers.

I am with O2. Perhaps you are with Orange or 3. Or Vodafone or T Mobile. Whoever you’re with, there’s a problem.

Unless you go for pay as you go, you’ll be tied into a contract.

That contract will provide you with a bundle of calls, texts and data. Sometimes you’ll use too much and be charged more, often you’ll use less but you don’t receive a refund.

Their profits may have fallen due to a disastrous performance in Italy, but Telefonica, the owner of O2, still posted profits in 2012 of 748 million euros.

Down 54% on the previous year.

Pre-tax profits at Vodafone announced back in March were £9.549 billion. And there are similar stories at the 3 network owned by Hutchison Whampoa; at Orange, owned by France Telecom; and at T Mobile, owned by Deutsche Telekom.

Enormous multinational companies posting massive profits. I don’t have a problem with profit, if the company concerned is fair in its dealings with you, the consumer.

Analysts get het up about subscribers, market share and increasing profits year on year. Consumers chop and change based not only on deals they can get, but the service provision and coverage.

We are in a state of flux too.

3G is old hat. It’s all about 4G now. The delivery of data is quicker.

The only people to provide that service from day one will be the joint venture between T Mobile and Orange, called EE.

While the pricing packages available are hideously complex, I have no idea how many calls I will make next week, let alone in a month or a year’s time. How am I supposed to know whether my phone will gobble up 1GB of data or more?

It’s like being asked to buy a pair of shoes for someone but they forget to tell you which size they want. And at the end of the month if you haven’t used all your calls, data and text allowances it’s the equivalent of throwing away food that is past its sell by date.

This has to be wrong. Surely you should pay for what you use? Surely the regulators should be protecting you, the consumer? And surely these big companies should look after their customers?

I had no idea when my contract ran out. So I rang O2. Mostly because their website didn’t recognise my telephone number despite being a customer who pays them fortune every month.

That’s 32 minutes of wasted time I won’t see again. And while I was waiting, I had to listen to some appalling music.

At times it was BBC local radio Alan Partridge playlist central and at others, I felt I was at some rave or other. Clearly O2 didn’t want me to be holding. And that was after I pressed one for this and two for that and three for the other.

How annoying is that? I JUST WANT TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE!*

When I did finally get through some computer error or something explained why I could not ask my questions online.

My contract runs until April. If I want an upgrade, I have to buy myself out of that contract and get a new one. Of course I understand that the phone is “free” or reduced in price on the basis that it gets paid for over the life of the contract. What I don’t understand is how regulators have yet to tackle some insanities within the mobile telephone market. The analysis of what you use and the quality of advise from sales personnel is at best variable.

So, you are probably in a quandary too.

Who provides the best coverage?

Will Everything Everywhere deliver when you step outside a major conurbation?

Will providers continue to charge you monthly bills that may or may not match your usage?

And what of the other providers still flogging the 3G horse? Will you get a better deal?

The simple answer is no.

There is no best mobile telephone deal. No best provider. Unless you diligently manage your mobile telephone account you’ll be on the wrong tariff.

Even if it’s right this month it will be wrong next month.

And since the 4G network will take a while to get up and running, if you want to use that, you have a single provider to choose from. Want to swap providers? Unless you are out of contract it will cost a fortune. Want to upgrade your phone? It will cost you.

And part of the reason for all this mess is that Ofcom are more interested in whether some D-list celebrity dropped the F-bomb than they are in protecting consumers.

The government are more interested in raking in billions from licences rather than getting our infrastructure up to international standards.

So, am I going to buy an iPhone 5? Am I prepared to be fleeced for yet more money? More than likely. I suspect you will too.

* O2 did eventually get in touch. Like any provider, they will amend your contract should you not be using your full bundle, it’s a moveable feast but don’t expect them to come to you. The biggest problem it would seem comes from senior management. Unless you have a contract that is about to expire, you simply are not a priority and maybe that’s where things have to change. An obligation on service providers to sell you the right deal but an investigation into contracts and the conditions applied to consumers.

James Max presents Weekend Breakfast every Saturday and Sunday mornings on London’s Biggest Conversation, LBC 97.3 FM. He is a qualified surveyor and worked in property and finance for 15 years. After working for one of the country’s leading property advisory firms, he completed healthy stints in investment banking and private equity, before becoming a candidate on The Apprentice, which launched a career in broadcast media. Visit JamesMax.co.uk.