Vodafone gets the iPhone, but O2 customers can't unlock theirs
O2's two-year-old domination of the iPhone market in the UK has collapsed over the past 24 hours; although they were expecting competition at some point, they may not have been expecting the extent to which the market will fragment in the weeks to come. Yesterday, Orange announced they would be selling the new 3GS handset before Christmas - today Vodafone have announced they have secured rights to sell the Jesus phone in the UK, although not until early 2010.
The press is reporting the Vodafone contract wasn't signed until last night, meaning the announcement has probably been rushed through to catch the coattails of Orange, who enjoyed blanket coverage of their deal yesterday. The Telegraph is also reporting that Virgin Mobile are at the table to acquire rights to the phone - a three/four way split in the market will almost certainly see lower tariffs introduced and significant reductions on handset prices. Why is everybody wanting it so badly? Vodafone reckon they lost 160,000 customers in the last three months alone, because they defected to O2 for the iPhone. Like it or loathe it, there's an exploding customer base for it.
The big question that several readers asked us yesterday was - does this mean O2 will unlock your iPhone at the end of your contract? There are bound to be bargains to be had, so can you move to another network to take advantage of them? The answer as of right now, is no.
Bitterwallet has spoken to O2 Customer Services; no new information concerning unlocking procedures has been agreed by O2 and Apple yet, which means for the time being your handset will remain locked to their network - that goes for Pay As You Go handsets too. It's not that it won't happen, but while O2 has market exclusivity they don't feel they need to change their stance. Once Orange launches into the market, O2 tell us they'll make a decision on whether current customers can take their handset to another network - not that it should be too difficult a decision, especially for customers who bought their handsets outright. Either they weren't expecting the Orange deal so soon, or O2 are stonewalling customers for as long as they can justify it.