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Everywhere you look, a new iPhone price hike turns up. At $199, the phones themselves may be cheaper — but Apple and AT&T, the phone's exclusive carrier in the U.S., are charging users by other means. The iPhone data plan by itself is going up $10 to $30/mo. In a GigaOm interview, AT&T wireless chief Ralph de la Vega reveals that the 200 text messages previously included will cost iPhone users an extra $5/mo. ($20/mo. for unlimited messages, which seem practically obligatory.) And then there's Apple's MobileMe subscription, without which the iPhone's new synching features won't work, at $99 a year, or just over $8 a month. Add it up, and iPhone users will be paying about $43 a month, or $1,038 over the two-year course of the AT&T contract they signed up for — all to get an iPhone at $199.

No wonder AT&T is taking so many steps to make life difficult for people who try to buy an iPhone without a contract. Some bloggers are fussing about the fact that AT&T will no longer offer a prepaid plan for those with poor credit. What about those solvent enough to deserve an iPhone 3G? After AT&T and Apple get done with them, I wonder what their credit rating will look like.