How likely is a Monday announcement of a European iPhone 3G?

Columns & Opinion, iPhone, Mobile phones

andy-merrett.jpgAndy Merrett writes…

Now that the deal with the first US version of the iPhone is virtually tied up, the rumourmongers have turned their attentions squarely to Europe.

Yes, I’ll come out straight away and call it a rumour, because I’m not convinced that Monday will see an announcement from Apple about the European iPhone.

If I’m proved wrong next week, so be it.

Guy Kewney at has published a story claiming that Apple has struck a rather complicated deal between Vodafone, T-Mobile, and the Carphone Warehouse.

Recent news suggests that Vodafone has been in talks with Apple, and that they were the favourite network to gain an exclusive iPhone deal, squeezing last month’s favourite, T-Mobile, into second place.

If Kewney’s report is true, then both operators could benefit from iPhone fever, along with the Carphone Warehouse who could become the main independent retailer for the handset. I wonder what that would do for their relationship with Vodafone?

Presumably, Vodafone and T-Mobile stores, as well as the handful of Apple Stores in Europe, will also be able to sell the iPhone, as well as it being available online.

In the US, Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, has repeatedly defended AT&T’s slower Edge network, with one reason given that it’s less draining for the battery than a 3G network.

The iPhone survey we carried out last month suggests that 3G isn’t as big a deal in Europe amongst consumers as industry watchers suggest it is. Though Apple has boosted the iPhone’s battery life, Jobs may still not be keen to unleash a iPhone 3G in Europe, particularly as Wi-Fi coverage is still rather patchy.

Then again, surfing at dial-up modem speeds has been cited as one of the iPhone’s biggest problems.

Kewney also believes that the European iPhone is still on course to arrive by year end.

If an announcement does come on Monday – and let’s face it, Apple are good at pulling untimely surprises – then it will ease uncertainty over Apple’s bargaining powers in a segmented mobile market quite different to that of the US.

Even if a deal is in place, does it make sense to make an announcement so soon after this weekend’s mad rush in the States?

It would quash rumours and the risk of leaked information, and – if the iPhone is coming to Europe in December, would provide a similar lead time (less a month or so) to that between the iPhone’s announcement in January and its US launch today.

Depending on the deal, and how much Europeans want the iPhone, that could cause a stagnation for other mobile operators and manufacturers. Still, that’s not Apple’s problem.

I’m not holding out for a Monday announcement – but I’ll eat humble pie if I’m proved wrong next week.

Now, to today’s launch.

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Andy Merrett
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