AT&T *are* treating the iphone differently
I agree that people should have to pay the subsidy part of their contract to upgrade early.
HOWEVER, O2 in the UK (& AT&T in the US) are asking for the subsidy PLUS the talk time. If you compare the £20 SIMplicity tariff (i.e. SIM only), which gives you 600 mins talk time, 1200 texts, and unlimited web, to the £35 3Gs iphone tariif, which has the same quotas, you can see that the £15 difference is the subsidy.
Therefore, if you have, say, 7 months left, you should be paying only 7x£15 = £90 to ‘pay off’ the remainder of the subsidy early.
To ask you to pay 7x£35 = £245 means they are effectively charging you a further premium of £155 to upgrade early, OVER AND ABOVE the subsidy. Now, if you were wanting to cancel your contract and just go to another carrier, fine. But if you're wanting to BUY yet another phone AND sign another contract to stay with them any longer, how does that make sense?
And for all those people who say "quit whining, it's the same for all carriers/phones", it's NOT. The penalty/premium, as you can see from the figures I've posted, is FAR more than any potential lost subsidy. For other phones I've had in the past, I've been able to upgrade/change phones within contract at a far closer amount to the actual lost subsidy...
I am currently not in contract, but I’m still not getting this new iphone, as I’d probably be in the same situation this time next year.
I’ll stick with my jailbroken 3G and await either sensible pricing from O2, alternative operators selling the iphone, or even going to the palm pre when it comes out.