I understand your concerns about the iPhone. It’s an exciting product and I have been considering one for awhile myself!
Here’s what I know about it though: the iPhone cannot currently be sold without a new two-year agreement with AT&T. This means that none of the features will work until the unit is activated through the service provider.
Apple is the manufacturer of the product and AT&T is the service provider. Apple does not offer service plans for the iPhone; service is provided through AT&T. A lot of features are offered for the monthly payment though: access to the 3G network and the iTunes store, as well as the calling and texting. Of course, everyone has to determine for themselves if the services offered are valuable enough to offset the expense.