Following the announcement from O2 UK that the two-year exclusive contract agreement between both them and Apple over the iPhone handset is indeed about to end, Orange is believed to be gearing to start selling the iPhone 3GS (and iPhone 3G) just one day after Apple and O2's exclusivity agreement ends - November 10th, adding to the 27 countries and territories the company already sells the devices in.
While O2 had originally believed it had the rights to sell the handset until 2012, the agreement originally signed in 2007 actually only secured O2 exclusivity of the handset for a two year period.
I know what you're thinking; Everyone has an iPhone now, so what's the big news here? Right? .. Wrong. According to SlashGear, Orange has already had over 200,000 people register their interest for the new handsets. The really big news here however, is that Orange is about to get feisty with their offerings. With the end of this exclusivity agreement between Apple and O2 UK, this opens the floor to other companies selling the handset. Yes - companies. More than one - and for the first time ever, this means one thing; competition.
As previously reported, Vodaphone UK also recently showed their hand, stating they too will be offering the handset. With the holiday season fast approaching, this launch will see both Orange and Vodaphone fighting to secure iPhone customers. Orange however, has a plan. Still speculation, Orange are said to be re-thinking the way they are going to offer the handset, with one UK columnist saying the telecoms company could offer customers bundled accessories or even pre-installed applications.
With no handset pricing or tariffs announced, we're yet to see if the jump from O2 to Orange for existing customers is a viable or more importantly - affordable - option. What is certain though is it's going to be a fight for customers, and a tough one. At this point, I can't help but think that Orange has the upper hand.
In fact, according to one source, Orange has teamed up with T-Mobile over the summer, and are both allegedly already selling the device in other areas of the world - and, although Vodaphone UK has managed signed a deal with Apple to sell the devices, it now comes to light the company won't get it's hands on the handset(s) until early next year (2010).
It'll certainly be interesting to see how all this plays out, and what the benefits will be for both new (and existing customers) - if any.