Don't expect an iPhone on other networks anytime soon

The iPhone - is it leaving O2?
The iPhone - is it leaving O2?

The iPhone is a strangely attractive beast. On the one hand it's clearly one of the market-leading smartphones, offering the power of the App Store and the smooth elegance of the industry's best touchscreen.

On the other, it carries a huge price tag (as well as contract) and can barely compete with other phones in the market on some features. So why is it that the sheer notion of it being carried on other networks should warrant pages and pages of media coverage?

Simply: it's desirable, and especially here in the UK, customers still are reticent to change their network (mostly for fear of losing a 'loyalty discount' for staying with a company for umpteen years... but in reality, many networks will match your deal with a little haggling).

I think it's unlikely we'll see the iPhone 3G on another network this year, and we certainly won't see the 3GS appearing on any other network's shelves. And either way, it doesn't matter: you don't have to stay locked to a network to get the best deal, and the iPhone isn't the pinnacle of the mobile phone world. It's good, but it's not the only one.

Big news

Two weeks ago, the main news was the 'fact' T-Mobile and Orange were in negotiations with Apple to take the iPhone onto their networks, thereby cutting O2's exclusive deal.

O2, of course, responded in the same way it has been for a number of years: "We have a multi-year agreement with Apple to sell iPhone in the UK. This relationship continues."

Yes, but what does multi year mean? Technically, if we're going into the semantics of language, 1.1 years is a multi-year agreement (although obviously not true). But sources within the industry have indicated O2's multi-year deal is up later this year, something that O2 did not deny, just repeated the same phrase it's been repeating time and time again.

And that's what's got the public's imagination flaring - the fact a company won't alter its statement to suit every possible revelation. You could easily make the case that O2 should have known what it was taking on when it won the race for the iPhone, but it's not plausible for a company to spend practically half its time changing a statement every time a rumour leaks out.

Talks with Apple

It seems the stem of this leak comes from the fact T-Mobile operators were saying they're stocking the iPhone in shortly, and sources within the company have confirmed they're in talks with Apple.

Well, call centre employees haven't always had the best reputation for sticking to the truth. I've heard anecdotes of some offering to pay customers to buy an iPhone, unlock it, and stay on their network. I've heard of other networks' retention teams promising that they'll be stocking the iPhone later in the year... and yet, it hasn't materialised.

In the chain of command at these call centres, the person on the end of the phone isn't likely to know the ins and outs of deals being thrashed out in the boardrooms, so you have to take such promises with a few bucketfuls of salt.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.