As the exclusive deal between the iPhone and British carrier O2 winds down, rival operator Orange announces that it will also be carrying the Apple smartphone later this year. No specific prices or plans have been introduced yet, but there’s already a website where potential customers can sign up for status updates on the upcoming launch of the 3G S.
Britain was one of the few countries where iPhones were still limited to a single network. (Guess where else it’s single-carrier only.) Like AT&T here in the States, O2 had a limited lock on the handset, but unlike its American counterpart, the “multi-year” deal only wound up being for 2 years. During that time, it garnered more than 1 million iPhone subscribers.
According to The Guardian, this recent move benefits both carrier and manufacturer. Orange was reportedly “desperate” to bolster its offerings in advance of a proposed merger with T-Mobile’s UK division. Meanwhile, Apple was looking to sell more iPhones by branching out to new networks. By putting its handset on Orange, the American tech company may see its flagship product on what may become UK’s largest mobile network, with more than 49 million users across Britain. (Orange already sells the iPhone in other countries, including its home country of France.)
Further abroad, the iPhone is also expected to debut on China Unicom on October 1. Though the phone has been tweaked to exclude Wifi (to pass approvals by China's State Radio Regulatory Commission), the cost for a no-contract phone looks to be 5,000 yuan, or $732.50. Less-expensive subsidized pricing will also be offered.
Interesting stuff. More so, if you consider that this new three-year relationship with China Unicom isn’t monogamous either. In light of China’s recently reformed telecom industry, reports are emerging that Apple is also eyeballing China Mobile.
So what’s this mean for the iPhone in the U.S.? Well, nothing definitive, but generally speaking, it does seem to suggest that exclusive deals are losing their luster with Apple. And specifically in regards to AT&T, the mountains of complaints regarding the carrier and its network can’t possibly be falling on deaf ears in Cupertino.
A ChangeWave survey released last month revealed iPhone owners’ biggest dislikes with their devices — other than battery life — had to do with AT&T. And that was even before last week’s quagmire, otherwise known as the MMS debut.
While no one has a crystal ball on the future, the iPhone's movements in other parts of the world may offer a glimpse into the company’s intentions and plans here at home. And from what we’ve seen lately, it all bodes well for the possibility of a new U.S. carrier (or a few) finally getting their mitts on Apple’s pride and joy.
UPDATE: UK’s Vodafone has announced that it has also nabbed the iPhone. It plans to start selling both 3G and 3G S versions in Q1 2010. Wow. Pretty soon, everyone, including British toddlers, will be carrying the Apple handset. Meanwhile, my friend (who’s on Tmo) keeps eyeballing my iPhone jealously. Sorry, Jen — Not yet. But be patient. If this is any indication, there could be good news just around the bend. (Fingers crossed.)