5 Big iPhone Rip-Offs

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The iPhone is the most successful smartphone ever. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said recently that the company has sold more than 50 million of them -- and that was before the iPhone 4 shipped.

Because of that popularity, perhaps, some companies feel it's acceptable to reach into your wallet, take your money and provide absolutely nothing in return.

Using an iPhone is like taking a holiday to some corrupt country: It may be beautiful and offer simple pleasures, but you're going to pay bribes to people who shamelessly charge you for what's free elsewhere.

Sure, nearly all cell phone users get charged something for nothing. For example, many carriers charge extra for text messaging, even though SMS messages don't cost them anything to provide. And some carriers charge that pointless 15-second recorded set of instructions before every voicemail against your minutes.

But nobody gets ripped off like iPhone users get ripped off. Here are five specific cases where companies charge iPhone users real money, but in return offer nothing.

1. You pay $360 for mobile broadband you don't use.

AT&T offers iPhone users two plans for wireless data. The DataPlus gives you up to 200 megabytes of data per month for $15 additional to the voice plan, and the DataPro plan gives you up to 2 gigabytes for $25 more.

There is no option for zero mobile broadband data.

The reality is, however, that about one-quarter of all smart phone users don't use any -- not a single kilobyte -- of mobile broadband data, according to a new Nielsen study.

I don't know what the numbers are for iPhone users specifically, but some unpublished number of users don't or wouldn't use any mobile broadband data, but pay full price for one of the two plans.

AT&T could offer a zero mobile broadband data plan (it would be worth it for many to use only Wi-Fi) but it would rather charge those customers a minimum of $360 during the contract period in exchange for nothing.

2. You pay $325 to not use the carrier anymore.

Carriers let you break your contract, but only after charging you an "early termination fee." The fees vary from one carrier to another, ranging from zero to $50 on the low-end to up to $200 and up at the high-end of the market. Many of these fees are prorated, so the closer you get to the end of your contract, the less you pay to end it.

Days before the iPhone 4 shipped, AT&T dramatically hiked its early-termination fee for smartphones from $175 to an incredible $325. (Verizon charges a $350 early-termination fee for its high-end smartphones.)

Let's step back and consider what's happening here. At the time it locks in customers for this termination fee, AT&T enjoys a monopoly on iPhone sales. But at some time during this 2-year contract, the company will lose the monopoly.

Customers who prefer a competitor, and want to use an iPhone on another carrier will have to pay the monopoly pricing for early termination -- even after the monopoly is over.

Users unhappy with AT&T service will have to pay $325 to not use the service, even if it's one day before their contract ends.

3. You pay $18 for committing to a new, two-year contract.

The timing on the breathtakingly awesome new iPhone 4 couldn't have been better for AT&T. Just before credible rumors hit that Verizon would offer the iPhone in just six months, AT&T graciously offered to re-commit iPhone customers to two-year contracts early if they pre-ordered new iPhone.

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