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Apple iPhone comes to O2 UK

 Matthew Key and Steve Jobs Expected November 2007
19th September 2007

Apple have announced that O2 will be their exclusive partner to distribute the Apple iPhone in the UK. Following a similar business model to Apple's deal with Cingular (now AT&T Wireless) in the US, the iPhone wil carry a premium price tag, and Apple will also receive a share of the revenue - as far as we know this is a completely unique arrangement in the UK market. Pictured to the right are O2's Matthew Key and the legendary Steve Jobs from Apple showing off the new device to the press.

The iPhone offered by Apple and O2 in the UK is absolutely identical to the US model. This is a pretty familiar device to most Mobile Gazette readers so we won't dwell on it for too long, but very briefly this smartphone with a large touch-sensitive screen, WiFi and a two megapixel camera which has won praised for its slick interface.

 Apple iPhone on O2 UK The Apple iPhone is not without criticism though - some of those have been down to odd quirks in the interface, the difficulty in developing applications for it and the fact that it is extremely difficult to unlock. But by far the most serious criticism is the lack of any kind of 3G support.

In the US the iPhone has been widely panned for slow data connections to the Cingular / AT&T GSM network as the only cellular data supported is GPRS and EDGE. The maximum data transfer speed of most EDGE implementations is 236 kbit/s. UMTS (3G) will typically give a maximum download speed of 384 kbit/s which is quite a bit faster, however more and more handset vendors are coming out with HSDPA capable devices which can give up to 3.6 Mbits/sec which is fifteen times faster than EDGE. On the other hand, EDGE is four times faster than GPRS so it's not completely useless.. and in our experience EDGE is just fast enough to be usable.

So the iPhone needs EDGE - but does O2 actually have EDGE in the UK? It does appear that O2 have been doing a stealth upgrade on some of their base stations which now support EDGE as well as GPRS, and since this is typically just a software upgrade then the chances are that O2 can get EDGE coverage out to most of the UK fairly quickly, but you should check O2's coverage maps before buying. The bottom line though is this - without EDGE, web browsing on the iPhone will be awful, with EDGE it will be just about passable.

On the plus side, GSM/EDGE connectivity drains a lot less power from a phone than WCDMA/UMTS (3G).. and whereas 3G signals can easily be blocked by buildings, EDGE tends to be a lot more reliable. However, we still feel that the lack of 3G is a critical flaw in O2's version of the iPhone.

 UK version of the iPhone The iPhone on offer in the UK will be the 8GB model (the 4GB model is being dropped in the US). Priced at £269 (€400 approximately) with an 18 month contract, the iPhone is quite possibly the most expensive handset in O2's range. O2 will offer a range of special tariffs with unlimited EDGE data and free access to The Cloud's 7500 UK WiFi hotspots starting at £35/month which is a pretty good deal. The Apple iPhone will be available from 9th November 2007.

At the time of writing it appears that T-Mobile have the rights to the iPhone in Germany, and indications are that Orange might have secured the rights in France. There's also a rumour that there will be a 3G version of the iPhone available from next year, but there's very little concrete evidence to support this.

Our opinion? The iPhone is not for us, but it has sold very well in the US with over a million handsets sold at some considerable profit to Apple. Yes, you can expect to see people queuing outside O2 stores on the launch day.. and nope, we won't be among them. But if you like this sort of thing, then make sure you note down November 9th in your diary.

Pictures courtesy of O2 / Apple UK.

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Apple iPhone at a glance


Q3 2007


GSM 850/900/1800/1900




320x480 pixels


2 megapixels


PDA-style device
115x61x12mm / 135 grams



Memory card:








Battery life:

5 hours talk / 16 hours video playback




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