updated 10:20 am EDT, Wed October 17, 2007
Unlocked French iPhones
French carrier Orange will sell the iPhone in both locked and unlocked versions for the country, a company spokeswoman says. Béatrice Mandrine, elaborating on yesterday's launch date announcement, explains that while a standard version will be tied to Orange and cost €399 ($560), shoppers will also be able to buy an unlocked iPhone for an as-yet unspecified premium. An official announcement of its cost is expected to be made in November, some time before the November 29th release; Mandrine has declined to say, meanwhile, what revenue arrangements Orange may have made with Apple in lieu of sharing cellular fees.
The creation of an officially unlocked iPhone marks a dramatic change for Apple, which has so far negotiated only exclusive contracts, such as the five-year deal with American carrier AT&T. The company has also been accused of deliberately sabotating attempts to use the phone with other carriers, despite the fact that unlocking a cellphone is legal under US law. Unlocking is also a common practice in Europe, where Apple has secured exclusives with O2 in the United Kingdom and T-Mobile in Germany.
Apple's move is most likely a necessary response to French law, which stipulates that phones cannot be sold solely under contract. This and heavy revenue demands from Apple are said to have once threatened the arrival of the iPhone in France, although this view is disputed by Mandrine. "This [delayed announcement] did not have to do with locking or unlocking the phone," she says. "It was about finalizing the commercial agreement."
Some analysts argue that Apple will receive as much as 30 percent of operator revenues from the Orange iPhone, an amount unprecedented given that most cellular networks share little to none of their fees with handset makers.