Cell C good, everyone else not so much (or my thoughts on acquiring an iPhone)

9 Jan

At some point in the next few months my cellphone contract will expire and I will be free of the shackles of contractual obligations and able to forage for the best cellular deal on the market.

Even though I have brief intellectual flirtation with the idea of switching to an Android phone or even a Windows Mobile device the reality is that I am far too deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem to really want to switch. That and the added value that other operating systems and ecosystems offer is not sufficiently better (or not better at all) than what I can get on an iPhone.

Right now I am on Vodacom (although with an independent service provider) and while I am not unhappy with the service I have received the simple fact is that you can get a decent deal if you take out a new contract, simply renewing a contract will get you a much smaller subsidy.

I am also not afraid of porting networks. This is in spite of my two previous experiences of porting: From Vodacom to MTN (where the phone didn’t work for the better part of the month) and from MTN back to Vodacom (where I couldn’t receive calls from MTN for about two weeks). You might say I am a sucker for extracting maximum value from my service provider.

When it comes down to the decision there are a few issues that come into play.

1)    Network coverage at my home: Vodacom coverage is not great and MTN is not much better. 8ta voice coverage is OK but without an external antenna data coverarge is weak.

Cell C is the clear winner in this race, it has a tower at a nearby shopping centre and I never see less than four bars of signal on my iPad (which uses a Cell C data sim)

2)    The combination of monthly cost and bundled services.

It is actually the cost/benefit ratio that is the real kicker because I can live with less than optimal coverage if I feel like I am getting value for money. I have found that if you moan enough to the networks they will at least make some sort of effort to improve their service at you location.

So it comes down to the offerings. I am starting with Vodacom and MTN because they have the least imagination when it comes to structuring packages.

I am topping out the budget for this exercise at R529 a month because that’s what it would cost me to get a 16GB iPhone 5 from Vodacom on an iPhone 120 package (120 minutes, 100 SMSs and 500MB of data), there are cheaper ways to get an iPhone from Vodacom, the cheapest being R399 a month on a SmartData Lite package (75 off peak minutes, 100 SMSs and 100MB of data) but considering that I can only just get by on 500MB of data that seems like a good place to set the benchmark.

MTN lists three options for the each of the iPhone variants and even though I would love a 32GB iPhone we are sticking with the 16GB for the purposes of the exercise.

For R429 MTN will give you the Anytime 200 package (R200 airtime value, 25 SMSs and 250MB of data) this is a better deal than the R399 Vodacom offering mostly because of the extra data and the fact that the airtime can be used at any time.

For R529 (the same price as the iPhone 120 package) you can move up to the Anytime 350 package (R350 airtime value, 50 SMSs and 250MB of data). Given that people like me rarely use more than our allocated amount of minutes it is really all about the data and not about the voice in these packages so at this price point I would be going with Vodacom because of the additional SMSs and the higher data allocation.

8ta is offering the cheapest way to get your hands on an iPhone 5 with the phone available for R358 on Smart Contract Basic (0 minutes, 0 SMSs and 350MB of data) with no included minutes the contract is going to cost you more if you actually use the phone but this actually amounts to 24 month interest free loan to buy an iPhone with a little data thrown in.

8ta’s highest end offering is for R458 on Smart Contract 3 (230 minutes to 8ta and landline numbers, 60 minutes to other numbers, 50 SMSs and 500 MB of data). If any of your regular calls are to landlines or 8ta subscribers those 230 minutes could come in handy.

I have left Cell C far last for a good reason, something about saving the best for last.

The little network that could is offering the iPhone 5 of Straight Up 200 for R399 (for a limited time) and with that you get 200 minutes, 200 SMSs and 500MB of data.

When compared to the Vodacom offering you are paying R129 less for 80 extra minutes, 100 extra SMSs and the same amount of data. And with the way Cell C let you bolt on additional services you could throw in an extra 500MB of data and still come in at R54 less than you would be paying Vodacom.

Sounds like a no brainer to me, in fact you would have to have a vendetta against Cell C or really crap coverage in the places you frequent not to take this deal.

Unless you are buying your iPhone for cash, in which case remember to shop around when your contract is up for renewal.


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