Apple $99 iPhone may pulverize Palm Pre, imperil BlackBerry Pearl

On Monday, Apple pulled out all the stops at its 2009 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), introducing additions and enhancements to its operating system, Mac OS X, the MacBook Pro laptop line, as well as a brand spankin’ new iPhone.

But it’s not the new iPhone 3G S, Snow Leopard or the beefed up MacBook Pros that really piqued my interest … it’s the old iPhone 3G, which Apple is now selling for less than $100.

And here’s why.

Apple products are Expensive–yes, with a capital E. Everybody knows that. If you want a MacBook, you’ve got to be willing to pay more for it than, say, a comparable HP or Dell notebook running Windows.

Want a cool matching Apple display to go with it? Sure.

But it’ll cost you more than double the price of a similarly-sized ViewSonic or LG LCD. In fact, this “gouging” is actually part of Apple’s sales strategy; the company knows its products are a sort of status symbol.

My point: With Apple, you gotta pay to play. That’s just the way it is, right?

Nope, not any more … at least when it comes to iPhones.

Starting June 19, Canadians will be able to buy the 8GB iPhone 3G for $99. 

They would pay $199 for the 16GB version or $299 for the 32GB unit of the new iPhone 3G S.

However, to avail of these prices for the 3G and 3G S Rogers and Fido customers  would need to sign up for a three-year voice and data plan- one year longer than their American counterparts.

This sharp price drop for the iPhone represents an unprecedented move from the Cupertino crew.

A $99 iPhone is actually affordable.

Furthermore, the price is comparable — competitive even–with offerings from the other handset heavies, like BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM).

To sum that up, Apple is now out-pricing some of its competitors … in a sense.

RIM’s “entry-level” BlackBerry is currently the Pearl series, both the 81xx and 82xx families of devices.

Suddenly, Apple also has an entry-level player…and a damn fine one, at that. Frankly, the iPhone 3G is now one, if not the, best “beginner” smartphones available, in this humble blogsmith’s opinion.

I’m a BlackBerry lover through and through, but faced with a choice between the iPhone 3G, a Pearl 81xx or a Pearl Flip 82xx, I’d probably pick the iPhone, because I can’t stand RIM’s SureType keyboard, which both Pearl devices have.

This is a drastic strategy shift on Apple’s part, but one that the company needed to make to truly dominate in the smartphone space.

That’s because average consumers who don’t currently use smartphones are the largest untapped market segment, the biggest slice of the pie, if you will.

And the $100 mark is the sweet spot for that crowd. RIM knows it; Microsoft knows it; and Apple knows it.

Sure, data plans for the iPhone still cost more than the simple voice plans required for your average feature phone, or “non-smartphone.”

But now that the device itself is more accessible, those higher data plans seem more palatable.

What’s more, Apple may very well have triggered the death knell on Palm’s Pre, which hit U.S. store shelves last Saturday, and is slated to launch in Canada — on Bell Mobility’s 3G high-speed mobile network — later this year.

Palm’s counting on the Pre to pull it out of the gutter — read: financial ruin — and though I don’t think any one device could realistically have such an effect, the Pre could have represented a few solid steps in the right direction.

But now … U.S. consumers can buy an iPhone for half the price of the Pre and that just may be enough to bury Palm for good.

With files from Joaquim P. Menezes


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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