Angry Robot

The iPhone in Canada – Only for Outlaws

And as Waylon Jennings says, ladies love outlaws. But is it worth it? I’ve been looking into this because I WANT IT BADLY, and I thought it worthwhile to share the fruits of my research.

The iPhone is not officially available here. Why? Glad you asked, Jimmy! Rogers is the only network that could carry the iPhone, as it’s a GSM device and only Rogers and subsidiary Fido are GSM in Canada. So odds are the negotiations between Apple and Rogers have stalled. The arrangements Apple wants are not typical in the industry; Rogers does not currently have an unlimited data plan and is probably reluctant to offer one.

The iPhone trademark in Canada is actually held by a different company, so that could be an issue too, although I find the Rogers explanation more convincing.

All that said, you can still get an iPhone and use it in Canada. You can go buy one in the US and then unlock it via software, or take it to be unlocked somewhere (I’m looking at you, Pacific Mall), or you can buy an unlocked iPhone off Craigslist – at about a hundred dollar premium. Once the phone is unlocked, a Rogers or Fido SIM card can be put into it and it will work perfectly (well, visual voicemail won’t work, but everything else will).


There are downsides, of course. First of all, you will have to use the phone on Rogers, and the data plans are truly fearsome. There are no unlimited data plans; the “unlimited” browsing plan doesn’t apply to the iPhone; the top data plan (as far as I could tell) costs $80 for 500 megabytes a month, which you could crack pretty easily depending on what you’re doing with it.

Also, you will get no support from anyone, and if it stops working, you’ve got a very expensive brick. And it’s more than possible that future software upgrades will indeed brick the phone – it’s happened before.

Finally, there’s a decent chance a legit Rogers-version iPhone will be released in the coming months. There are currently rumours of a 3G iPhone coming in June to Rogers – not only would the data be much faster on such a model, it could very well come with a better data plan than your grey-market gadget would ever get. That would also mean your resell value would plummet.

Then again, rumours have been swirling for the past year that the Canadian iPhone release was imminent, and it has yet to happen. But I’d be surprised if it wasn’t released before Christmas this year, as that’s prime phone-selling season. Also, Apple wants to bring the iPhone to Japan around then, which would mean they’d have to make a CDMA model, which would mean Telus or Bell could grab the iPhone instead of Rogers.


So what should you do? Depends on what you want. Occasional Robot contributor Nigel wanted his phone and iPod to be one and the same, and didn’t care about the data stuff – so he got an iPhone and is thrilled with it. I’m more interested in the always-on rich net access, so I’m thinking of going with a Touch for the time being. If only HydroOne’s Toronto-wide WiFi network wasn’t such garbage, at $20 a month it would certainly put any Rogers data plan to shame. And if the legit Canuck iPhone is released, I can still sell the Touch or give it to my lady friend.

Maybe I’m just not an outlaw at heart.

7 comments on "The iPhone in Canada – Only for Outlaws"

  1. ramanan says:

    With ZiPhone it is so easy to unlock the phones now there is really no reason not to smuggle one up from the US. The phone makes a better iPod then the touch to boot, with its hardware volume keys. My plan with Fido is 10 megs of browsing plus some other junk like a bajillion SMS messages and voicemail and call display for 12 bucks. It was unlimited for 4 months, and that was fucking awesome. Though, I haven’t fixed my edge settings since I upgraded my phone and it hasn’t bothered me yet. The wireless internet is cool, but slow enough you get bored of it.

  2. D says:

    Yeah, I’m actually wondering about doing just that. My real concern is the official version coming out soon, and possibly getting shut out of the official data plan, but these are nebulous fears that may never be realized.

    My latest thinking is paying the extra $100, getting the iPhone in the US and having one less device to carry, damn the data plan and concentrate on wifi.

    Shit – I’m on Fido too, and it doesn’t seem like Fido is still doing the 4 months thing.

    Here’s ZiPhone FWIW

  3. Nadine says:

    “The wireless internet is cool, but slow enough you get bored of it.”

    I love that sentence.

    I just want an iphone for the whole ipod that’s also a phone thing and the motion sensing for games, specifically that labyrinth game that moves the marble around. I could play that forever…Oh and google maps. I love google maps on itouch and iphones…I love showing people where my house is, you can see it so clearly!

  4. D says:

    I guess that’s the thing. Having google maps anywhere you go is SO sick. But just a moment of google maps could easily be a megabyte of data, which could easily be a dollar or so under Rogers. (I find it extremely hard to even figure out what the rates actually are – the ones I linked to are windows mobile mail rates, whatever that is. But I know Gmaps is specifically NOT included under their ‘unlimited’ ‘browsing’ ‘plan’.) So you’re really looking at wifi only, which is really a crippled version of the iphone compared to how it works with a proper data plan, and compounded with Toronto’s poor wifi access situation…

    Aaah! Stop griping, D! It’s gonna be fine! I think I’m going to sit it out for a month and see what happens with the 3G, but then I’m gonna GIT R DUN.

  5. Nigel says:

    I know!

    I think there unlimited thing also only works for Roger’s specific phones too so if you have an unlocked anything (iphone) or a locked phone that is not listed in their unlimited plan then your still paying major coin for their service.

    The Torontoist wrote a nice article on this back in feb.

    But I agree with nadie Google maps is very cool Not only to look at your house but places you would want to visit Like Paris, Japan or Africa

  6. ramanan says:

    I feel like waiting is an exercise in futility. They’ll probably have a new phone out in September, when they normally announce the new iPods. And even then, I have my doubts about Rogers selling it here. All our cell phone companies suck. Maybe someone new will set up shop and start hawking all sorts of phones, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for Rogers or Bell to do anything innovative.

  7. D says:

    Yeah, could be, ramanan. There are enough hints (in code in the beta software or whatever) that a 3G iPhone is coming soon. However, it’s wishful thinking that this would mean Rogers would have it at launch, if ever.

    Let’s hope the CRTC’s auction goes well!

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