Will Tesco kill the iPhone's cool?

Yes, but that's a good thing - here's why

Let's be honest. When you first saw iPods on sale in ASDA, your heart sank a bit, didn't it?

It wasn't so much that ASDA was selling iPods; it was that ASDA clearly didn't see them as anything special.

There they were, lumped in an unattractive corner of the sound and vision section with the cheapest, nastiest pay-as-you-go mobiles, the cheapest, nastiest audio accessories and the cheapest, nastiest no-name MP3 players. The coolest audio player of all time was no longer cool.

And now Tesco's doing it to the iPhone.

Tesco's been in the mobile phone business for ages, but it's always concentrated on, how shall we put it… the lower end of the mobile market. Tesco isn't interested in elegance, or power. It's a network for people who want the most text messages for the least amount of cash, people who don't really care about the latest and greatest technology.

It's hard to see how the iPhone fits in with that, but when you take a step back it makes perfect sense. Apple doesn't really care where its phones are sold - you've been able to buy US iPhones in Wal-Mart for ages - and Tesco Mobile is really O2 with Clubcard points - all the actual network stuff is handled by O2 - so the supermarket's really just updating its line-up of O2 kit.

Pampers, petfood... and an iPhone

It still seems rather strange that people will be able to buy an iPhone while they're shopping for Pampers and pet food.

Then again, there might be some benefits to those of us who've had our iPhones for ages. We very much doubt it'll lead to a price war - Tesco Mobile isn't going to go head-to-head with O2 when Tesco Mobile is O2 - but Tesco is truly enormous, and if it sells serious numbers of iPhones then it's going to have a knock-on effect in two key ways.

First, all those extra iPhone users will put even more pressure on O2 to sort out its network and improve its 3G coverage; and secondly, O2's cut of all those extra iPhone subscriptions could help pay for the network upgrades it admits it needs.

So will Tesco kill the iPhone's cool? Yes, but only if you're the sort of person who can't enjoy a product if mere mortals can buy it, too. And if you are that kind of person, that ship has already sailed: since when was an O2 shop or a Carphone Warehouse an exclusive, high-end retail destination?

Look around you the next time you're at a gig, or in an airport, or anywhere else large numbers of people are gathered. You'll see loads of iPhones, many of them in the hands of idiots.

That's good, because each of those phones is making Apple a tidy profit - and that profit enables Apple to develop the next generation of iPhones, to work on the Tablet and to invest in whatever else it's got cooking in the labs.

As Tesco might put it, every little helps.



Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," he says. "And there's a lot of crap."