Well we’ve been pinging our sources around the telco world today and it looks like this: The “substantive” rumour mill says that, in the UK at least, O2 is going to keep its hands on the exclusivity for the newest iPhone handset, the iPhone 3GS. That looks pretty certain. In other words, the early adopter crowd who will spend anything it takes to get their mits on the best iPhone will stay with O2.
The older iPhone 3G, however, is heading off to at least three other networks: Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile. The iPhone 3G will be available on both contract and PAYG from Orange and T-Mobile in September. Orange has, apparently, known since March that it would have the 3G for a September launch.
Acccording to PaidContent UK T-Mobile is “in talks” with Apple. But it’s our understanding that all these deals have already been agreed, just not announced.
That means that O2 is fast becoming the repository of the “latest” handsets, recently signing an exclusive deal with Palm for the new Pre.
Does that mean the iPhone 3G will be available SIM-Free? Probably not – each network is likely to lock the phone to their network. Though it would be great if that happened of course.
Would this farming out of the old iPhone 3G screw up Apple’s retail plan? Confuse customers? Maybe, but it appears Apple is simply treating the handset like its computers: If you want the latest model with all the best features you buy it from Apple or their chosen partners (in this case O2 and Carphone Warehouse). If you want the slightly older model with less features you head to a “reseller” – in this case the other mobile networks.