The long running rumours that O2 was set to lose its iPhone exclusivity in the UK have turned out to be true after Orange finally announced today it will also soon sell the highest of all high profile handsets.
In a company statement it declared:
"Orange UK and Apple have reached an agreement to bring iPhone 3G and 3GS to Orange UK customers later this year. Orange globally now offers iPhone in 28 countries and territories. Orange, which has the largest 3G network covering more people in the UK than any other operator, will sell iPhone in all Orange direct channels including Orange shops, the Orange webshop and Orange telesales channels, as well as selected high street partners. A pre-registration site for customers to log their interest has already been launched at www.orange.co.uk/iPhone. More information on pricing, tariffs and availability dates will be released in due course."
By contrast, O2 has responded saying:
"We're proud that we've been able to offer an exclusive iPhone deal to our 20 million customers for the last two years. We always knew that iPhone exclusivity was for a limited period of time, but our relationship with Apple continues and will be an ongoing success. We have over 1million iPhone customers and they remain very important to us. We aim to offer our customers the best devices on the market, including becoming the home of Smartphones and we are really pleased to now add another device in the Palm Pre. We also offer award-winning customer service and benefits, which is why more people choose O2 than any other network in the UK."
I'd agree with the customer service part, but judging by the Twitter world's reaction to the news it seems there isn't much love out there for O2 currently. It may be the UK's largest network, but it seems to have achieved this via endless handset exclusives rather than through the quality and spread of its network service which has already been slammed by Ofcom. The O2 Data network has also been particularly unreliable in recent months and who could forget reader reaction to the extortionate O2 iPhone 3GS tariffs.
So let's hope competition and consequently choice brings a better service to iPhone users nationwide. With the Orange and T-Mobile merger announced earlier this month, it looks like a new heavyweight is in town...