UK folks interested in the iPhone 3GS only have mere weeks to wait before they can shop around and escape the tyranny of O2, according to a report from The Guardian this past weekend. In fact, in only two short weeks, Orange will begin offering the coveted Apple (s aapl) handheld, on Nov. 10.
That’s the day following the end of O2’s exclusivity contract with Apple, so it literally couldn’t begin offering it any earlier. No word yet on when specifically Vodafone will begin offering the device, though it will eventually join its two rivals in selling the 3GS sometime in the new year.
According to The Guardian, despite the iPhone’s strong performance to date, interest in the device in the UK isn’t showing signs of stopping anytime soon:
Certainly interest in the iPhone among UK consumers shows no signs of abating. Already Orange has had over 200,000 customers register their interest in getting the device, before the company has even said what it will charge for it.
While the timing seems ideal in terms of sparking a holiday price war for Christmas consumer dollars, that scenario is actually fairly unlikely, since Orange UK has made statements to the contrary, claiming that instead of offering a lower price on the device than O2, it will try to attract customers with added value. That might take the form of accessories, temporary contract incentives, or pre-loaded applications, which is the mobile equivalent of bloatware, if you ask me.
It’s a disheartening sign for those who were expecting a more open field with regards to the sale of the iPhone to result in more affordable prices, but remember that this is only the beginning. Vodafone will enter the fray in 2010, as will the smallest UK carrier, 3, according to recent statements by the company’s CEO, Kevin Russell:
I would expect the iPhone to be on the 3 network sometime during 2010. At the moment, we don’t have the iPhone. We don’t really have any smartphones, but if we improve our range of smartphones and introduce the iPhone then our data traffic will grow massively.
If networks want to use the iPhone to do more than just retain existing subscribers, they’ll have to begin offering clearly defined advantages, and nothing attracts attention more than lower prices. Remember that the iPhone is already among the most heavily subsidized devices on the market, though, so it isn’t clear how much further providers can go without seriously affecting profitability.