Apple iPhone buyers will require an iTunes Store account in order to set up the iPhone, Apple has told potential customers. The move has sparked speculation that iTunes Store account information could be used to add an additional layer of software locking for iPhone users.

In a circular sent to those who registered for information on the iPhone, Apple informed would-be iPhone purchasers that they should know their iTunes Store account name and password. If they didn't yet have one, they should set up an iTunes Store account now "to save time later".

Linking the iPhone registration process to iTunes Store could be a way of enabling Apple to process subscription information faster, or to register devices more easily.

It could also be a way of locking the iPhone to user mobile accounts more effectively, by cross-referencing iTunes Store information and contract subscriber details from active iPhones. The iPhone could therefore be more firmly locked down than a regular contract phone.

Apple has recently reiterated that its strategy is to sell the iPhone with subscriptions only rather than offering pre-pay or SIM-free options.

The Apple iPhone iTunes Store announcement in full:

iTunes Account

"To set up your iPhone, you'll need an account with Apple's iTunes Store. If you already have an iTunes account, make sure you know your account name and password.

"If you don't have an account, you should set one up now to save time later. To set up an account, launch iTunes, select the iTunes Store, and click the Sign In button in the upper right corner of iTunes. Sign in and you're ready to go."