Vodafone is to go head-to-head with O2 and Orange to win iPhone customers after becoming the third mobile company to clinch a deal to sell the device in the UK. The announcement followed yesterday’s news that Apple had broken off its exclusive contract with O2 to allow rival companies to also sell the smartphone. Orange will be selling the iPhone before Christmas, while Vodafone’s deal bans it from selling the popular gadget before early 2010 – missing the Christmas trading period.
In a statement the group said today: “Vodafone and Apple today confirmed that they have reached agreement to bring iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS to the UK and Ireland in early 2010.”
Exclusivity is so 2008.
Why the surprise across the telco sector that Apple is using its power with the operators to push its device across all the main networks? Clearly the plan from day one, and inevitable now they have saturated sales within one operator. In the UK market operators have traditionally held a stranglehold on manufacturers, dictating device selection and marketing weight. What’s emerging with iPhone is a shift in the balance of control, as it follows where consumers see the value and uses that to pull operators into line.
This shift isn’t just driven by the device – elegant and iconic though it is – it’s increasingly about the third party applications and iPhone know this only too well. The new generation of smartphones have a fundamentally different consumer offer: Google’s Android, Nokia’s N series, Apple’s iPhone are all giving people thousands of reasons to buy the device, only a few of which are based on the hardware. As the battleground switches to apps, the operators face deep challenges over the value they add. iPhone know this and are starting to use their muscle.
The range of choice will be good for consumers, the explosion of apps good for developers and pricing across the market is bound to fall. But the big casualty could be the operator portals and their proprietary apps stores – a model that is starting to look outmoded with a shelflife maybe a short as your next mobile contract.