iPhone UK launch: everything you need to know

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This Friday is I-Day here in the UK, as the iPhone finally goes on sale here in Blighty. We’re a few months behind the US, but anticipation is still running high for launch day. With that in mind, here’s a beginner’s guide to the UK iPhone launch…

Where and when can I get one?
The iPhone goes on sale this Friday at 6.02pm (O2, see) in Apple, O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores on the high street, which is more than 1,300 shops. However, you’ll also be able to buy one from the comfort of your desktop, since all three will be selling the iPhone online too. Apple will be holding free workshops and training sessions on Saturday at its stores, while O2 says it’s hired hundreds of iPhone experts to lurk in-store and help buyers out.

How much will it cost?
The iPhone itself will cost £269, but you’ll need to sign up for an 18-month O2 contract too. The operator is offering three tariffs: £35 a month gets you 200 voice-call minutes and 200 texts, while £45 a month gives 600 minutes and 500 texts, and £55 a month gives 1,200 minutes and 500 texts. In all cases, you get unlimited data – which O2 has confirmed really will be unlimited.

How many iPhones can I buy?
Just two per person, on a first-come first-served basis. Apple is keen to nix the plans of resellers, particularly those who might hack the iPhone to work on other operators.

I can hack it?
Hmm. Well, the UK iPhone is shipping with the latest firmware, which fixes some of the loopholes exploited by crafty hackers in the US to unlock the handset. In other words: no. But of course, it’ll only be a matter of time before coders find their way around the new firmware and produce new unlocking solutions, so if you really want to use your iPhone with a non-O2 SIM card, you probably won’t have to wait that long.

How will I activate the iPhone?
The good news is you won’t have to do it in-store. Apple says you’ll be able to activate your iPhone using the iTunes application on your PC or Mac, which will include choosing your tariff and activating the device. Be warned: you’ll need an existing iTunes Store account, or at least a credit card handy to register your details. You’ll also need the latest version of iTunes, which should be available on the day.

Is the UK iPhone 3G?
No. You can expect to be surfing the Web using the slower EDGE network, although it is faster than GPRS. However, O2 is keen to promote its deal with Wi-Fi hotspot provider The Cloud, which is offering unlimited free use of its network of hotspots to iPhone owners here in the UK. That’s over 7,500 hotspots, which will be partial consolation for the lack of 3G.

Can I get it on pay-as-you-go?
Nope, sorry. In the US, there were reports that if you failed the credit check, you could switch to a pay-as-you-go contract for the iPhone, but O2 has confirmed that this won’t be the case in the UK: “If you do not pass the credit check, you will not be able to activate your iPhone. You’ll need to return the iPhone in as new condition with all the original packaging and accessories to the original point of purchase, with proof of purchase and the email confirming activation failure within 14 days of receipt for a full refund.”

We’ll be covering the lead-up to the UK iPhone launch throughout the week, as will Shiny’s dedicated iPhone blog iPhonic, so watch these spaces!

Stuart Dredge