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Orange to (also) sell unlocked iPhones in France

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.

by MacNN Staff




  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    unlocked = expensive

    Likely, the unlocked phone will cost double or more the locked version... just a guess.

    And... as a shareholder, I like how Apple sells the same product for the same number of currency units as in the US (399), but since they're selling in euros they get a 40% premium... however if I were a European I'd be steamed about this. Of course this is nothing new, they do the same thing with iPods.

  1. cebritt

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Rent iPhones

    Why don't they just offer unlocked phones on a rental basis with an agreement just for the iPhone? I pay a monthly fee to TimeWarner for my cable modem and cable box and as far as I know, I can't go purchase them and I can't purchase other units from third parties.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Very positive...

    This is a good development. It seems to imply that Apple is finally questioning whether it has pursued the best business model for the iPhone.

    It comes down to an issue of control. Historically this has been a repeated problem for Steve Jobs, an adopted child, who has subsequently felt the need to control the uncontrollable his whole adult life. While the iPhone has been a qualified success (and clearly a technological achievement), it likely could have been a much greater success had Jobs been willing to loosen the reigns and allow uncontrolled, open distribution. (Why settle for adding $30 dollars to your stock price when you could have added $130?)

    All that AT&T offers uniquely is visual voice mail, a feature that is available as a third party add-on anyway, so what was the advantage? Control -- and likely hefty kickbacks, but mostly control.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969


    BTW, the rental ?

    The rental question above is a good one. If you pay money for something, but don't have total control over it, then you don't really own it. You are renting it. It is arguably that all iPhone users in the U.S. are actually renting their iPhones, and don't actually own them. If they owned them they would have the right to use them as they choose. This view brings up the question of false advertising doesn't it? If you provide a product under the term "for sale," but are actually retaining substantial control over the product (and thus only renting it), isn't that misrepresentation bordering on fraud?

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: snark

    Nice amateur psychology - Dr. Phil would be proud of you.

  1. Constable Odo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    There's a law...

    in France that requires Apple to give leeway about unlocked iPhones. If the government here passed some law about having to unlock iPhones, Apple couldn't do anything about it and would have to concede.

    You own the iPhone with restrictions. You can own a gun in the US, but firing it in the streets or modifying it for fully automatic use is illegal.

    I think you can purchase a third-party cable box from Scientific Atlanta, but you'd need to register it with TimeWarner. You can use any cable-modem that meets TimeWarner's DOCSIS specifications.

  1. mgpalma

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: BTW, the rental

    What about DVD's? CD's? Software, Etc. exactly the same thing. You bought the right to use, listen, watch it but your 'rights' can be revoked at any time. Read the license of any of the above. This is nothing new.

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Orange, not Apple

    Apple doesn't care if the law requires unlocking or not. They are only concerned about the way to make their expected profit on these devices. The agreement with AT&T was most beneficial, therefore, Apple went with them. The deal with Orange guarantees the same kind of thing.

    This has nothing to do with Jobs's childhood, eing adopted, wanting control or any such thing. This is about two things:

    1. Making the best possible user experience CONSISTENTLY;

    2. Making the highest possible profit margin the market would accept.

    Unlocked phone will probably sell for equivalent of US$700-750 (AT&T's subsidies). Its price will have to be protective enough of Orange as not to cannibalise its profits, and not too high as not to appear too protective of Orange's profits, but high enough to make sure Apple makes equivalent profits.

  1. nickgold2012

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Don't forget VAT

    European prices include VAT, US prices do not include sales tax. If you take this into account, the difference between US and European pricing is much, much more slim.

  1. MacnnGregor

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yea, France.

    I'm sure the neo-cons online can never bring themselves to admitting it, but sometimes government regs. do work for the interest of the public and only slightly impact the workings of the "free" market.

    Requiring unlocked phones may seem like big brother, but it simply opens the markets up and still allows companies like Orange and Apple to make plenty of money.

    Besides you can vote a political big brother out of office, but you can't do that to MS.

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