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Apple’s iPhone launches in Europe


Apple revealed one more glimpse of its global wireless strategy today, announcing it will launchthe iPhone in the U.K. with European mobile phone network provider O2 as the exclusive carrier partner. The official launch date is set for Nov. 9.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs and O2 CEO Matthew Key made the announcement today in London with little fanfare. The device is the same as the 8GB model currently shipping in the U.S. It will be priced at ?269 ($536) tax-included with a minimum 18-month contract.

Excluding taxes, the phone is roughly the same price as the original price tag for the 8 GB iPhone, which Apple recently reduced in price by $200. While phones are traditionally unsubsidized in the U.K., and high-priced phones are common, Apple may soon repeat its price drop in the U.K., which could produce the same angry reaction among early purchasers there that it produced here. O2 will be deploying the devices over EDGE, the same oft-griped-network serving U.S. iPhones. Launching the same slow phone in Europe, where users have become accustomed to 3G speeds, is bound to produce even more grumbles than in the U.S.

At this morning’s launch announcement, Jobs said that the 3G chipsets place too heavy a load on the iPhone’s battery meaning a UMTS phone’s battery life would be too short. He indicated that once there are better chipsets, the iPhone will move to a 3G network, implying that this transition would occur in late 2008. In the meantime, O2 has promised 30% population coverage with EDGE, growing to an undisclosed ceiling.

All of O2’s plans will include use of its wireless broadband network, Cloud’s, 7,500 free Wi-Fi spots. O2 projected that two-thirds of the iPhone’s data usage would be over Wi-Fi through private home networks and the Cloud footprint rather than on the EDGE. The service plans all include three new pricing plans, which give users unlimited data plans and cost ?35 ($70) per month for 200 voice minutes, ?45 ($90) for 600 minutes and ?55 ($110) per month for 1,200 minutes.

Outside of the new carrier partnership and a slightly new price point, the most significant difference for European iPhones will be mobile access to the iPhone store. Users will be able to find, preview, choose and purchase music and, now, download it over the air when connected to Wi-Fi, but not over the EDGE network.

Although Jobs declined to talk about any country outside of the U.K. at today`s press conference, Apple’s U.K. deployment of the iPhone is the first of many anticipated announcements. Other purported international expansion plans include deals with operators in Germany, Spain and France. German newspapers have reported that T-Mobile will announce tomorrow its deal to sell the iPhone in Germany beginning November 1, and Orange France in Paris is also alleged to be Apple’s exclusive partner in France.


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