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UK iPhone vs US iPhone: Who gets the better 3G deal?

If you're thinking of going to America and picking up a 3G iPhone, you should hold your horses. We took a closer look at the contract deals to find out if it was worth the trip

Before you slip off to America in the hope of snagging a cheaper 3G iPhone, you might want to read this first. The iPhone 3G is priced broadly the same here and abroad, plus or minus a few pounds, but the network contract deals are quite different.

Unlike the original iPhone, which could be bought anywhere and then unlocked, a new requirement from both AT&T in America and O2 in the UK means you're going to have to sign up to a contract before you can take it home. This means that even if you do unlock the 3G iPhone, you'll have to pay a monthly contract anyway.

Incredibly, AT&T is only letting people buy a 3G iPhone from a high-street shop and not online. In the UK, we're going to be able to buy a 3G iPhone on the Web, but we'll still have to sign up to a contract before it's delivered.

The good old British tradition of phone subsidies (they're what the Empire was built on) mean that in the UK if you sign up to a contract at £45 a month or more, you'll get the 3G iPhone for free, gratis, nada. Our poor cousins across the pond won't be nearly so lucky -- AT&T hasn't announced a free iPhone deal on any of its contracts.

But it's not just the subsidies that are making Americans jealous, it's the pay as you go option. Here in the U of K, O2 will offer it without a contract for a rumoured £370. That means that if you don't want to pay monthly, you don't need to, albeit for a hefty wodge upfront.

Interestingly, or rather unfortunately, for current US iPhone owners, if you want to give your old iPhone to someone else, AT&T makes you or the person you're giving it to sign up for a whopping 2-year contract. O2 has yet to confirm how the upgrade system will work here, but we'd be amazed if it didn't let you put a pay as you go SIM into your old iPhone.

It's not all doom and gloom for the Americans, however, because they do get quite a few minutes bundled into their 3G iPhone deal. On the cheapest US deal ($70), there's 450 anytime and 5,000 offpeak minutes -- the UK has to make do with a measly 600 minutes in total on the equivalent £35 contract, and just 75 minutes on the £30 deal. But clearly they're going to spend most of those minutes moaning about how much better the UK iPhone deals are overall. -Andrew Lim