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University "Giving Away" iPhones to Students

Pete Brown - 26 February 2008


This is something I just don't get.

The iPhone is arguably one of the most expensive phones you can buy. Granted, it has a great user interface, but at $500-$600, it's pretty expensive for a locked phone. I personally find the phone (from my limited use) quite usable, very attractive, but by no means a revolutionary device in any way other than the user experience.

Abilene Christian University in Texas is going to be giving away iPhones to incoming freshman. If I was back in college I, or my parents, should be asking:

  • Who exactly is footing the cost for this? Will the cost of the phone be added to my school explicitly or buried in a tuition increase?
  • Am I now responsible for subscribing to AT&T to use the new phone?
  • If I already have an appropriate alternative, or even an iPhone, will you deduct the cost from my tuition?
  • What exactly is it about these applications (meal points, in-class surveys etc.) that make an iPhone the only acceptable device? The applications are web apps, and the iPhone is more expensive than some fully functional laptops.

The article says "mobiles are quickly becoming the most affordable portable platform for staying networked on the go.", but they chose the most expensive locked phone you can get. Go figure.

Even if they were able to get a private donation to cover the costs, I still think there are much more effective projects the money could be placed into, like buying a semester's books for all students. Education costs have skyrocketed over the last several decades. Schools need to reduce costs, not add frivolous line items.

One of the happiest days of my life was when all my student loans were finally paid off. I would hope that the incoming students would look at this offer critically and understand that someone, probably them, will have to pay for this. $500 with 10 years of interest gets to be quite a bit, even if it gets buried under a tuition increase.

Then again, they used to be able to lure us into high interest credit cards by just giving away baseball caps or beer can insulators, so I guess I can't say much there :)

posted by Pete Brown on Tuesday, February 26, 2008
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