Bangkok Diary Friday 26 December 2008: iPhone release in Thailand -- Good Pricing, Poor Pre-Registration
True has announced details of its iPhone release and the pricing that will apply in Thailand. Despite all the negative predictions over the last two years, the cost of the device and the fees are not too bad. However, there are a couple of negatives to the initial offering here.
There was a small item (not online) in the Bangkok Post, Business Section, this morning (26 December) telling readers that the date the iPhone will be available is now 16 January 2009 and the location, as expected, is Siam Paragon. With this location in the center of Bangkok's shopping district, this may well be a big event and I would also expect to see personnel from the local Apple office there too.
The True main page for the iPhone has three links: Price Plan; Services, Guided Tour, and Warranty. The pages, with their links and design, suggest that True has been working quite closely with Apple here.
The Guided Tour section takes us back to Apple's own pages, which we have seen may times before.
Services has brief information concerning what is or is not available. Wifi for sure, but 3G is shown as coming soon. There is a link on this page to a page that shows a number of games and other apps developed for the service: icing rather than cake.
What does cost?On the face of it, the fees are, as was suggested to me a few weeks ago, affordable. There are four plans -- Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum -- although the Bronze will not be available until after the launch: only the others are available for pre-launch registration.
The Bronze, when it is available, requires the purchase of the iPhone at 6,999 (US$200) baht for 8G or 10,499 baht (US$300) for 16G. The monthly fee is 1,199 baht (US$35) for both of the devices and users must sign up for 24 months. It is unknown at this stage if the SIM card from other services will work in these phones (or those used with any of the other payment plans).
The services allow for 100 minutes of talk time for the Bronze and Silver packages, with 200 minutes for Gold and 300 minutes for Platinum. 100 SMS (messaging) are free with the Bronze and Silver, with 200 and 300 for Gold and Platinum respectively, while EDGE/GPRS/3G allows 10 hours for Bronze, 1G for Silver, 2G for Gold and unlimited for Platinum. Bronze and Silver are permitted 20 hours WiFi use, with unlimited for Gold and Platinum.
If users exceed these allowances, the fees charged are shown as 1.5 baht per minute for voice, 1.5 baht for SMS, EDGE/GPRS/3G 0.6 baht per Kb for Gold and Platinum, or 1 baht per minute for Silver and Bronze. Wifi is charged at an extra 1 baht per minute (Bronze and Silver -- Gold and Platinum are unlimited of course).
Registration. Or notEach of the pages has a pair of buttons: Main Page and "Go For It" which begins the registration procedure. Only customers who register via the web can collect the phone at the launch. The start of the process requires selection of a number, if one does not already have a True line. It took a number of attempts before I could select a series of four digits that was available, then a list of numbers (service and area code) with those digits is revealed. Using a button we are also able to select from one of the four provinces covered: Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Prakarn.
There is a lot of detail in this application process and several of the items are starred as required, including name in English and Thai. Although I have this on my business card, copying the characters is not easy and the help of a Thai friend was needed. Most of the other information is standard here for applications.
Once that is done, we move on to the device selection and the plans. This is not available in English at all. The Bronze plan -- the cheapest -- is not available until 16 January, so at this stage users may only select Silver, Gold or Platinum for either the 8G or 16G iPhone. If users want the Bronze service, therefore, they are unable to pre-register and unable to collect the phone on that first day. However, by signing for the 2 years that these services require, there is no charge for the iPhone itself. The iPhone for the Bronze service is 6,999 baht for 8G or 10499 baht for 16G versions.
The last couple of pages are in Thai only, ad this is where it really gets frustrating. We must choose the time: there are three 8 pm to 9pm, 9 to 10 and 10 - 11 at Siam Paragon. Having decided on this, we are finally directed to a booking page where credit card details are required. Despite entering details several times, it is only the cards from Bangkok Bank or the Thai Farmers Bank that can be used.
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