Versus: Aircel, Airtel iPhone 4 plans compared

The iPhone 4 is finally going on sale today with a new reverse subsidy model, which promises to pay back every single paisa (on Aircel) that a subscriber pays to buy the phone upfront. The accompanying plans from both Airtel and Aircel can be supremely confusing, thanks to promises of ‘money back offers’. Many of you have been asking us to decipher these plans and suggest which carrier has the best plans. Your wish is our command, so hit the break to learn what the carriers are trying to hide and make a wise decision.

Before we start comparing plans, let’s get one thing clear: FORGET THE DISCOUNTS. Irrespective of what the two carriers might be claiming, even after a monthly discount, a subscriber is bound to make a minimum monthly commitment. Instead of looking at how much saving a carrier is claiming you’d make over two years, you should look at what is it that you’d be still paying every month and what you get in return. There is a very high likelihood that you would end up paying more than the minimum commitment (and hence the term ‘minimum’). With that out of the way, let’s compare the plans.

For sake of clarity, we have taken the lowest and the highest minimum monthly commitment plans from Aircel and compared them to similarly priced plans from Airtel. Also, keeping in mind that you would first decide whether to pick up the 16GB variant or the 32GB, we have two separate tables to keep things simple. These tables would give you a fair idea about what you will get for making the monthly commitment. We have removed the discounts and the inflated plan to keep things simple and clear.

Key Observations

1. Overall, Aircel offers more bang for your buck for similarly priced plans from Airtel. While Airtel’s plans offer free calls only to other local Airtel numbers, Aircel offers free local calls, irrespective of the network. Aircel offers free local and national text messages, while Airtel’s are only local messages.

2. Aircel trumps Airtel on pre-paid tariffs too by offering fixed tariffs without any discount element. On the other hand, on Airtel, you will have to recharge your number with double the amount and 50 per cent is later refunded as your pre-paid balance. For instance, to avail the Rs 328 pre-paid plan in our table) from Airtel, you will have to recharge your number by Rs 600. After deducting taxes, Rs 272 will be credited to your number as your balance. However, on Aircel, you just recharge your number by Rs 299.

3. Airtel has an advantage over Aircel by having a larger 3G network footprint. However, we feel Airtel could lose that advantage in coming months, when carriers with 3G spectrum ink agreements to have Pan-India 3G coverage.

Our Verdict

The money-back offer is simply a marketing gimmick. Aircel, still, has good plans but Airtel seems to have lost the plot completely. We just cannot recommend anyone to hop on to any of Airtel’s iPhone 4 plans. The only advantage one gets from these plans is it includes 3G data, which otherwise turns out to be very expensive. Thankfully, the iPhone 4 is sold factory unlocked this time, which means you do not necessarily have to choose from these plans. Your existing plan would also work. If you are on any carrier apart from Airtel or Aircel, even then you can use the iPhone 4 without having to jailbreak and unlock it.

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