SmarTone-Vodafone debuts the iPhone

Nicole McCormick
27 Jan 2010

Hong Kong mobile operator SmarTone-Vodafone has become the second operator in the territory to launch Apple’s iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS smartphones that will rival Hutchison Telecom.

Plans start from HK$138 ($17.75) a month, which includes 1,400 voice minutes and 100MB of data. Additional data costs HK$10/5MB, with data charges capped at HK$298/month.

To get the cheapest plans – HK$138 and HK$248 – customers need to ink 24-month contracts.

“SmarTone-Vodafone will offer exclusive [iPhone] services, including access to 26 channels of live TV and on-demand videos, as well as the option to enjoy more videos online than any other Hong Kong network,” the firm said.

The iPhone 3GS 32GB smartphone will cost HK$4,480 with the HK$138/month plan. This price falls to only HK$780 on the high-end HK$398/month plan.

And there is no upfront charge for either the iPhone 3G 8GB smartphone or the iPhone 3GS 16GB device with the HK$398 monthly plan. All plans include free Wi-Fi.

“Hutchison’s deal with iPhone is not exclusive,” CLSA’s Hong Kong mobile analyst Timothy Chan told “iPhones can already be bought in electrical appliance stores or Apple’s online store.

“Competition is intense. In fact, before SmarTone-Vodafone officially launched the iPhone, it already offered handset subsidies to those who bought their iPhone in stores or online, matching the competition with Hutchison.”

SmarTone-Vodafone could find a tough iPhone competitor in Hutchison, which rolled out its iPhone products 18 months ago.

“Hutchison is still leading the market on iPhone given its distribution network and handset subsidies plan,” Chan said. “Recently Hutchison partnered with DBS to offer attractive iPhone packages that require no upfront payment.”

Meanwhile, rival Hong Kong cellco PCCW said it has launched an Android-powered smartphone from Huawei.

“The smartphone, having achieved tremendous popularity in Europe, has successfully entered the Hong Kong market, which has strict requirements for such products, and will disrupt this market by establishing new consumer purchasing trends,” PCCW said.

Android smartphones have been available in Hong Kong for more than 12 months.

“There are many models of Android phones on offer,” Chan said.

“Uptake has been good. SmarTone-Vodafone launched a couple of HTC handsets powered by Android a year ago, but the company eventually decided it needed the iPhone,” he said.

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