Smartone-Vodafone logoAs I still found my Smartone-Vodafone charges too high, I decided to look for alternatives, including those from competitors, like: PCCW, Three and People. For those of you who've been following my ideal iPhone tariff plan search in Hong Kong, you will know that I had been using Smartone-Vodafone's 3G voice plan (HKD128/month) + Internet Browsing (HKD38/month)+ Data plan (HKD118/month), giving me a total monthly bill of HKD296/month (including the MTR and administrative fees).

What did these combinations of plans gave me? I will only focus on the features that matters for an iPhone user.

Smartone-Vodafone (Option 1):

  • 1200 minutes of talk time outside of the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • 800 minutes of talk time within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Free SMS within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Voice mail, Call forwarding, Caller number display, Call waiting and Conference call
  • 20MB/day of Internet browsing (HTTP traffic)
  • 20MB/month of Data traffic (all traffic except HTTP, ie. POP3, IMAP, etc.), extra usage will be at a rate of HKD0.01/KB

I looked at my bill from September and notice that I had approximately 8MB of data usage outside of the HTTP protocol. I used approximately 700 minutes within the Smartone-Vodafone network and 130 minutes outside of the network.

I then looked at PCCW's "Web + Talk" HKD98/month tariff plan, to see if it is something more appropriate for my usage habits. I found that for HKD98/month, there is no contract commitment. Plus the plan gives you the following.

PCCW "Web + Talk" (Option 2):

  • 600 minutes of talk time outside of the PCCW network
  • 600 minutes of talk time within the PCCW network
  • Free SMS within the PCCW network (the sales person told me there was no free SMS, but their web site claims there is)
  • Unlimited use of PCCW WiFi hotspot
  • 60MB/month of data usage (the sales person claims this is HSDPA, but the web site claims it is GPRS), any extra data traffic will be charged at a rate of HKD10/10MB, with a maximum of HK298

Basing on my September usage, I use on average 18MB per day of data traffic, I am expected to pay and extra HKD298/month to cover the extra data usage. Giving me a total cost of HKD98 + HKD12 + HKD298 = HKD408/month.

So I decided to give Smartone-Vodafone's new Internet Browsing plan a try. Starting on November 12th, I am using their new Internet Browsing Plan, "IOM Value Pack" for HKD136.00 per month + HKD12.00 for MTR and Administrative charges = HKD148/moth.

Note that the HK96.00/month and HKD116/month plans require contractual agreements of 15 months. As many of you know I am against committing to any contracts for mobile tariff plans, as these prices usually drops within 6 months time. Due to the heavy competition in Hong Kong's mobile market.

Smartone-Vodafone "IOM Value Pack" (Option 3):

  • 600 minutes of talk time outside of the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • 600 minutes of talk time within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Free SMS within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Voice mail, Call forwarding, Caller number display, Call waiting and Conference call
  • 600MB/month (20MB/day) data usage.

The thing about Smartone-Vodafone's data allowance is that it only covers HTTP traffic, or in their words "web browsing". They really should be more specific than calling it "web browsing". I understand that anything more technical may be confusing for the average user, but they should clarify what "web browsing" mean in a footnote, detailing the Internet protocols. For the moment I can only deduce that "web browsing" covers any traffic using the HTTP protocol (ie. HTTP GET, HTTP POST, HTTPS activities).

Any extra data usage over the 600MB/month (20MB/day) or outside the HTTP protocol will be charged at HK15.00/15MB. Given my September month's usage (8MB of data usage outside of the HTTP protocol and less than 20MB/day HTTP traffic) I am expected to be charge an extra HK15.

This gives my monthly bill under the IOM Value Pack plan to be HKD136 + HKD15 +HKD12 = HKD163/month.

So my options are:

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
HKD296/month HKD408/month HKD163/month
Smartone-Vodafone PCCW Smartone-Vodafone

I will report back in a month's time to see if my new plan choice is the right one for an average iPhone user in Hong Kong.

Smartone-Vodafone LogoWell not exactly... that are dropping POP3 in the list of protocol that comes free with their "Internet Browsing" plan. For those iPhone users in Hong Kong who followed my advice and subscribed to the Smartone-Vodafone's "Internet Browsing" and the GSM 2G/3G Data plans, you should have received a SMS from Smartone-Vodafone to inform you that they will be dropping the POP3 protocol within the "Internet Browsing" plan.

One less protocol in the already limited features list of this "Internet Browsing" plan; you can see my article, "iPhone Hacked in Hong Kong on Smartone-Vodafone", from a Smartone-Vodafone customer's point of view on using the iPhone in Hong Kong for my opinions on this plan.

I am not certain if this decision of Smartone-Vodafone is the direct result of too many Smartphone and iPhone users using the Internet Browsing plan for POP3 and IMAP access. It is very obvious that their Product Development department did not think clearly about this plan before they launch it, and now they are trying to recover by dissecting the features of this plan further. Spawning even more VAS from it.

If you are one of the many iPhone users who took my advise in the article, "iPhone Hacked in Hong Kong on Smartone-Vodafone", then there is no need for you to do anything. Unless your POP3 usage is so large that it exceeds your current 2G/3G Data plan monthly quota. In that case you may want to weight the benefit of upgrading to the higher 2G/3G Data plan of the new "POP3" VAS to the Internet Browsing plan.

Note: that Smartone-Vodafone only speak of POP3 and they did not mention IMAP, nor did they exclude any POP3 access over a VPN. So you should take these into consideration if you need to argue with them on your next phone bill.