updated 07:40 am EDT, Mon September 28, 2009
Orange UK to carry iPhones in 2009
Orange UK this morning said it has struck a deal with Apple to carry both the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS "later this year." The carrier doesn't yet have information regarding phone prices or service plans but does say it will sell the handsets both online, at retail, and at "selected high street partners." No mention is made of Carphone Warehouse, which handles third-party sales for the iPhone today.
The deal marks one of the first instances of an iPhone exclusivity contract ending without a legal ruling forcing the move. It supports rumors that O2's sole rights to the phone expire October 9th and that O2's claims of a "multi-year" contract are partly inaccurate, as the agreement will have ended less than two years after the iPhone first went on sale in Britain.
News of the deal comes as Orange is merging with T-Mobile UK and should leapfrog O2 as the single largest British cellular carrier with about 37 percent combined market share. Simultaneously, O2 is diversifying away from a reliance on Apple with support for the Palm Pre as well as Android-based phones like the Samsung Galaxy.
As a result of the combined factors, the only major UK carrier to go without the iPhone will be Vodafone, though it has agreements with Apple in numerous countries.