iPhone Coming to Tesco Supermarket in the UK, Virgin in Canada


If you wanted to buy the iPhone, once upon a time you had to get it direct from Apple (s aapl) or from the Mac maker’s partner network providers. Nowadays, there are more and more places you can pick one up, including, soon enough, at the supermarket while you restock the bread and milk in the UK. In Canada, a budget provider of UK origin will soon join everyone else as an iPhone carrier, too.

UK retailer Tesco will offer the device for use on the O2 network exclusively, and it will be selling both the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS. Tesco Mobile, Tesco’s cell phone subsidiary, will begin offering the device both in store and online via Tesco Direct. Tesco Mobile has its own branding and pricing structures, but is actually a joint venture between the retail giant and O2, and uses O2’s network.

As for a release timeline, a Tesco spokesperson says the store plans on stocking the device “in time for Christmas,” which is fast approaching. The peak of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. is this Friday, widely known as “Black Friday.” Thanks to a globalized economy and the increased use of international online retail, Black Friday deals can now be found in many other countries, too.

Tesco hasn’t revealed its pricing for the iPhone yet, but maintains that it will be “competitive.” I’m beginning to just assume that when service providers use that word they really just mean it’ll be priced exactly the same as it is with every other company that offers it. That’s certainly been the case here in Canada.

Both Bell and Telus began offering the iPhone in addition to the first carrier Rogers/Fido, within the last month. Both the new providers built out new GSM networks to be able to provide the device, since their existing networks were CDMA, which Apple (s aapl) has recently reminded us is something it doesn’t do. Virgin Mobile just announced it would begin offering the iPhone 3G and 3GS “in the coming months.”

If you’re thinking that having four or five providers all offering the same high demand device would lead to increased competition and better deals for consumers, you’d be wrong. As is always the case in the rigidly controlled and regulated Canadian mobile communications industry, all providers are offering pretty much exactly the same deal, and none wants to budge to try to sway fence-sitting customers one way or the other. The problem is, the pie is big enough that each is more or less happy with its share of the pie, and so we exist in a consumer-screwing stasis.

I’m all for having the ability to choose between carriers, which is better than being stuck with one, as people are in the U.S., but if that’s the only outcome of increased iPhone availability, I’m not sure I care that much.


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