Opinion: I don't care WHO gets the iPhone in Europe, as long as it's 3G

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stu-mugshot2.jpgStuart Dredge writes…

The speculation about who’s going to be selling Apple’s iPhone here in Europe is already rather tiresome. A couple of weeks ago, Vodafone was the cast-iron certainty, yet earlier this week it was T-Mobile, and now apparently it’s O2.

Some reports are even suggesting that O2 will get the iPhone in the UK, T-Mobile will have it in Germany, and Orange will bag it in France. The rest of Europe, presumably, can go whistle in this scenario.

Basically, nobody knows who’s going to get the iPhone. But I read something on the MocoNews blog tonight about the Euro launch that made my blood boil: “iPhone will possibly be on the slower 2.5G network, same as AT&T in U.S., not the 3G as expected by others.”

What possible reason could there be for restricting iPhone to 2.5G when it comes to Europe? Don’t give me the rubbish about battery life either – that didn’t stop Apple putting Wi-Fi inside the device.

iTunes might not be set up yet for downloading songs over-the-air, but punters signing up for an iPhone are likely to be on TWO-YEAR contracts. If Apple hasn’t sorted OTA downloads by then, it needs to recruit some new technologists.

But the real point is this: if you’re going to tie people into a superlong contract, you better make sure their expensive new phone is futureproof.

In Europe, that means 3G.

Apple would have no trouble finding an operator partner with a widespread 3G network in the key European territories. Vodafone’s 3G coverage even extends into my house in Bishops Stortford, despite it lying in some kind of magnetic black hole that defeats Freeview and DAB radio.

Launching a 2.5G iPhone in the US was a strange decision, but at least explainable in the context of partner AT&T’s 3G capabilities (or lack of), and presumably the easy availability of Wi-Fi hotspots in the West Coast locations where Apple’s employees hang out.

Here in Europe, though, there really is no excuse for not upgrading the iPhone to 3G. Think of all those people currently using 3G handsets, who’d effectively have to downgrade their mobile internet speed to get an iPhone.

Admittedly, releasing a 3G iPhone over here would royally piss off all the Americans who are locked into two-year contracts with 2.5G iPhones. But that’s not our fault.

So, with an announcement on Apple’s Euro iPhone partner expected imminently (once we’ve had a few more days/weeks of ‘guess the operator’ fun, of course), millions of Europeans will be waiting to see if Apple makes the sensible decision, or takes the lazy option of assuming people will put up with a 2.5G iPhone for the kudos of owning a first-generation model.

My inner cynic is loudly shouting the answer, but I’m trying to ignore him.

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Stuart Dredge