The iPhone is coming

iphonecoming Much of the speculation during the past week or so is now confirmed – O2 has done the deal with Apple to be the exclusive distributor of the iPhone in the UK.

Going on sale on November 9 at various contract and pricing options (iPhone prices start from £269), the timing is perfect for Christmas.

You’ll be able to buy the phone from the Apple store, from O2 stores and from Carphone Warehouse retail outlets across the UK, as well from these firms’ online stores. These look like the only places you’ll be able to get the iPhone.

And I bet there’ll be a thriving market for hacks to unlock the phone from the O2 network.

One thing I noted in the launch announcements is that the phone is not high-speed 3G, unlike most mobile phones currently sold in the UK. Instead, the iPhone will use somewhat slower EDGE technology.

What will that mean to you the user?

Well, probably not much at all in making voice calls. But maybe a great deal if you plan to use the phone to its multimedia and rich-content potential, ie, data calls.

There’s plenty of commentary out there if you want to dive into this tech aspect of the iPhone.

Whatever the cellular-connect aspect of the phone, one great thing is that it has in-built wifi, so you’ll be able to access the web from a wireless hotspot.

I’ve not yet seen an iPhone in the flesh, as it were, so it’s hard to know whether to drool or be dismissive. If I’m going to drool about anything right now, my inclination is to do that over the iPod Touch (even though I’ve not seen one of those yet, either), on sale now in the UK.

I really ought to upgrade from my trusty iPod Mini. Still going strong but it’s, well, so yesterday.

It seems to me that the iPod Touch is more or less the same as an iPhone but without the phone. I’m not that bothered about the phone itself – I’m quite happy with my Nokia N73 for now – it’s more the other cool stuff that the iPhone brings that’s very appealing.

After all, making a call is just making a call, whatever the phone, right?

And what about O2’s Cocoon, the new 3G phone they launched in August? I’m playing with one at the moment (more about that here and here). Will this be dead in the water now?

While I don’t know any detail of O2’s positioning and marketing for the Cocoon, I’d guess that O2 will want to clearly differentiate the two. It will be very interesting to see that differentiation, especially after reading this quote from O2 in June in a review:

[…] Asked by whether O2 feared the August release of the O2 Cocoon would be overshadowed by the impending launch of the iPhone, [Sally Cowdry, O2 Marketing Director] said: “To be honest we see these as really different markets; first and foremost this as a phone, although an excellent quality music phone.”

I wonder how successful O2 will be, especially when you consider that the Cocoon costs £299 to buy without a contract, considerably more than the iPhone.

The enormous expectation build-up about the iPhone at its US launch in June is likely to be similar here. And no doubt Apple will add its voice to all the communication that we’ll be seeing in the lead-up to Christmas.

Plus, if O2’s deal with Apple is as draconian as some reports say, then O2 will need to shift a lot of boxes. How will that impact the Cocoon?

Here’s one prediction – even my mother will know about the iPhone long before Christmas comes around. Will she also know about the Cocoon?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Niall Cook

    “the Cocoon costs £299 to buy without a contract, considerably more than the iPhone.” – on the face of it yes, but phones are always more expensive without a contract, because there is no incentive for the operator to subsidise them.

    In fact, if you signed up with O2 on a 18 month contract (like they are forcing you to do with the iPhone) then you’d get the Cocoon for absolutely nothing!

    Bring on the hacks…

  2. neville

    I agree, Niall, re buying a phone. You can walk into almost any phone store and buy one outright. Usually pricey.

    But isn’t it largely about perception? Do I think it’s expensive to lay out £269 for an iPhone or £299 for a Cocoon? Actually not really if either device gives me what I’m looking for and I’m willing to pay for it.

  3. Alex Manchester

    Is £299 for a Cocoon the outright price though, as in contract free?

    The iPhone is £269+contract expenses for 18 months, and looking at the tariffs they’re quite pricey.

    Seems utterly mad to do buy one when you can buy one in the US for $399, unlock it for free, and use on almost any GSM network, worldwide, without contract.

  4. neville

    Yes, that’s the price you pay to get the phone itself with no contract, just pay as you go, according to O2’s pricing.

    The iPhone is similar principle, ie, £269 with no contract. But if you take up a monthly billing contract, it’s free, as is the Cocoon.

    I’d guess that if you could buy one in the US, you would. iPhone, that it; the Cocoon’s only available in the UK at the moment.

  5. Niall Cook

    “But if you take up a monthly billing contract, it’s free, as is the Cocoon.”

    Really? Where did you get that info, Neville? I’m pretty sure you’ll find that the iPhone will cost £269 and then you’ll also have to sign up to an O2 18 month tariff (cheapest at £35/month).

    So over the course of an 18 month contract, the Cocoon will cost £269 less than the iPhone.

  6. neville

    Looks like you’re right, Niall – I misread the info on O2’s site.

    It says:

    Once you’ve got your iPhone, the next thing to do is activate it. This couldn’t be simpler. All you have to do is enter into an 18 month Pay Monthly contract with O2 on one of our exclusive iPhone tariffs. These start at just £35 a month.

    So you have to buy it first and then take out a contract. Pricey overall, I think.

  7. Martyn Davies

    People in the UK are used to being able to get their smartphones with a hefty subsidy from the operator. It will be interesting to see what kind of take-up the iPhone gets. Also, if it succeeds, maybe other brands will be able to sell more unsubsidized handsets at the high-end?

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