Update: Orange have confirmed a 10th November release date.
TechRadar has spoken to Orange after it announced it will be carrying the new iPhone, with the network hinting the launch date could be coming soon.
O2's exclusivity deal for the iPhone 3G and 3GS has been widely touted as ending on 8 October, two years after it announced it would be the exclusive carrier of the original iPhone.
It's expected the iPhone will launch on other carriers in the UK after this date, and although Orange couldn't tell us exactly when, it did hint that it wouldn't be too far off, although there was still no word on whether it will be coming at a cheaper price point than O2 has been offering:
"In terms of pricing, we're going to be releasing information of that closer to the release date," an Orange spokesperson told TechRadar.
"We're actually going to hold back [on price announcements] for some time, as there's no need to alert our competitors about our pricing before we need to.
"But the launch date will absolutely be in 2009 and sooner than some people think. It's not going to be Christmas day as some people are saying, we're referring to it as later this year for when [the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS] will be in the shops."
The spokesperson also hinted that the price may not be different to O2 (it's speculated that O2 already heavily subsidises the iPhone, so there may not be a lot of room for Orange to lower the price). However, offering the 3G and 3GS on shorter contracts could be an attractive proposition for perennial iPhone upgraders:
"It's very important we're competitive [in terms of pricing with O2] and we bring other interesting things to the melting pot. We'll certainly be competitive, and will offer some new angles that are different for Orange customers [over O2's offering].
"We also hope our network strength will help us stand out, as we've shown we've got the largest 3G coverage population-wise."
Some potential customers of Orange looking to get the new iPhone when it launches have expressed worry that the network will be branding it heavily (as it has with many other devices), but the spokesperson has stated this is likely to be blocked by Apple:
"In terms of our signature Orange firmware we'll release more information nearer the time. We all know the way Apple operate and what other operators have managed to implement on the iPhone across the world, so it will be relatively minimal."
Oh, and Apple has also responded to our questions about what the new deal means for the consumer and whether this means more networks will be carrying it in the near future:
"We are thrilled to have signed an agreement to bring iPhone to Orange customers in the UK later this year."