Will Apple limit iPhone 3G in UK as punishment for unlocking, and why should they care?

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iphone3G.jpgAccording to inside sources in the mobile retail industry, Apple is planning to limit sales of the iPhone 3G in the UK because it’s pissed off (that’s the technical term, you understand) with Brits unlocking and doing naughty things with it.

Statistics suggest that only 15% (that’s around one in six) of the first generation iPhones sold in the UK were activated for use on the O2 network. The rest were either unlocked for use on other British networks or were sold on abroad.

Sanctions could include limiting the number of handsets being made available in the UK, at least initially, and not selling the white 16GB model at all.

Now, this irritates me on several levels:

1. Why should Apple care?

I can understand why Apple would have cared about what happened to the first iPhone, because it generated significant ongoing revenue from every handset used on the O2 network. However, we know that the iPhone 3G is subsidised (so O2 pays Apple for the privilege of selling it, and passes it on to us for less) and Apple gets no ongoing revenue.

Apple’s future revenue sources will come not only from the sale of the handset, but from MobileMe subscriptions, sales of applications and music via iTunes, and other accessories. That can still happen on an unlocked iPhone 3G — in fact the only company who should be bothered about unlocked iPhones is O2.

2. Americans did it first

The first iPhone was on sale for over four months in the US before we got it, and handsets “mysteriously” turned up all over the place (including Britain) almost immediately. The US also got a lot more handsets than Europe ever did, so why are we getting the blame all of a sudden?

3. Unlocking is not a criminal offence

It feels like Apple still doesn’t quite get the UK mobile scene. We’re used to having most mobile phones available on all the networks, and to unlocking them if they’re not. Unlocking a phone isn’t illegal, though network operators don’t like the practice.

We have a very mature mobile phone market in the UK, and if Apple wants to be successful, it needs to cut us some slack.

4. Limiting demand will make the “problem” worse

Does Apple not realise that restricting legitimate supplies of the iPhone 3G will exacerbate the “problem” — people will get hold of the handset elsewhere, probably already unlocked, and without a hope of it ending up on O2.

5. PR stunt?

Of course, this could all be a PR stunt to build expectation based on hype. Tell people that something will be in short supply — whatever the alleged reason — and you’ll double the queue.

Come on Apple, you’re not really annoyed with us, are you? Just send over lots of iPhone 3Gs (all models) and reap the ongoing benefits. After all, we’re your second biggest market at the moment.

Anyway, you don’t need to generate hype, because your loyal subjects do it for you.

(Via Electric Pig)

Related posts: UK iPhone 3G deal better than US | Google Talk on iPhone

Andy Merrett