An Orange iPhone, now a Vodafone iPhone? Carrier exclusivity for the Apple iPhone in the United Kingdom is now definitely passe.
Vodafone said Tuesday it would begin offering the iPhone in the U.K. and Ireland in early 2010, not 24 hours after Orange said it would have iPhones by the end of this year. Two new iPhone carriers in as many days in the U.K. can't be the most comfortable of situations for O2, which has enjoyed iPhone exclusivity in the U.K. since November 2007.
Vodafone confirmed the move in a short statement but did not offer details about pricing and plans. A number of Vodafone subsidiaries already offer the iPhone in other markets. Vodafone didn't confirm in its statement whether Vodafone 360, the telecom's new suite of mobile services, will be available on Vodafone iPhones, although it will be seen on Vodafone-carried smartphones from Nokia and Samsung.
Vodafone overall is the world's second largest mobile carrier, behind only China Mobile, which itself confirmed this week it would bring the iPhone to China in October.
Analysts told The Wall Street Journal immediately following the Vodafone announcement to expect similar moves in Spain and Germany, and that now that the iPhone carrier market had been opened up beyond one and even two players, plans and service would be the next battle.
"With exclusivity gone, it all boils down to price," said Evolution Securities analyst Mark James to the Journal. "We expect further pressure on SACs [subscriber acquisition costs] as the ability to gain market share through 'iConic' products comes to an end."
Now that the market has been opened up beyond single iPhone carriers in other parts of the world, attention will shift back to the U.S., where all eyes are on what Apple plans to do with AT&T's thus-far exclusive iPhone carrier contract.
Most analysts suggest Apple will open up the iPhone to other carriers like rival Verizon as early as summer 2010. AT&T has enjoyed iPhone exclusivity since the iPhone's launch in June 2007.