Thursday, November 8, 2007

Apple iPhone fever begins to grow

Apple iPhone fever begins to grow

Apple's iPhone goes on sale in the UK and Germany on Friday with thousands expected to snap up the device.
Eager customers have begun queuing outside the Apple Store in Regent Street, London, despite the poor weather conditions.

But there are concerns that consumers are only able to use the phone with one mobile network.

In the UK the phone will only work on O2's network, while in Germany T-Mobile will support the device.

The phones can be unlocked for use on other networks but this voids the warranty and could break the device if software updates from Apple are loaded.

As many as 250,000 users in the US have unlocked the device using free and paid-for software to make the phone work on different networks, and to load third-party software not supported by Apple.

I don't like be imposed upon as to which network I want to switch to

iPhone unlocker Daryl

In London, friends Graham Gilbert and Nik Fletcher were the first to queue for the phone.

Manchester Metropolitan University student Graham Gilbert, 22, said: "It is amazing. I just like the fact that it brings everything I carry with me into one device. I don't have to think 'have I remembered my iPod?'"

Mr Fletcher, from Petersfield in Hampshire, said: "People talk about the cult of Mac. They have a cult and there is a very loyal following."

Lacks technology

Critics have pointed out that the device, while boasting an innovative user interface which makes it simple to use, lacks technology found in rival phones.

The iPhone only works on slower 2G networks, limiting its usefulness as a mobile web browser, but it does also connect to wi-fi hotspots.

In the UK, iPhone owners can connect to the net for free at thousands of The Cloud's hotspots.

Greg Joswiak, head of marketing for the iPhone, denied that the phone had sacrificed function over form by choosing 2G.

"We wanted to make sure that we had a very small device and good battery life. You can't do that today with 3G.

Talk time

"It's just too power hungry, which is why most 3G phones have nowhere near eight hours of talktime."

One of the iPhone's big rivals, the Nokia N95, has four hours of talk time on a 2G network, while Apple's device has up to eight hours, according to technical specifications provided by both firms.

Customers have to pay upfront for the iPhone and cannot get the mobile free on a mobile contract.

The Apple phones costs £279 and the minimum monthly contract with O2 is £35.

Jonathan Arber, an analyst with Ovum, said: "In the long term it will be interesting to see how consumers will react to having to pay for this device.

"Obviously in the UK most consumers are used to getting their devices for free."

Mr Arber also pointed out that the UK mobile market is predominantly made up of pre-pay users.

"That's a huge section of the market that is not going to be purchasing an iPhone. In the contract segment there are a lot of people who are not going to pay £35 a month.

"But for a large group of people the iPhone is certainly an attractive proposition."

According to analysts M:Metrics 10% of 16,000 mobile phone users surveyed in the UK expressed strong interest in buying the iPhone.

Fifty percent of the survey sample with a strong interest had not paid for their current phone and almost half were on a pre-pay contract.

'Love experience'

Apple has sold 1.4 million iPhones since it went on sale in the US and O2 and T-Mobile are expecting strong sales.

Mr Joswiak said: "People love their experience with the iPhone. They don't love the experience with other phones. That is why our sales are through the roof."

"We assume that the device will find a very good reception on the market," said Rene Bresgen, a spokesman for Deutsche Telekom, owners of T-Mobile in Germany.

More than a 1,000 O2 shops, Carphone Warehouse stores and Apple shops are expected to sell the device.

Some iPhone owners in the UK have not been content to wait for the official release and have bought the device in the US and unlocked it for use on any network.

One owner, called Daryl, told BBC News he had bought 14 phones in the US for himself and friends and unlocked them.

He said he had unlocked his original phone because he didn't want to be tied to one network.

"I like the current network I am on and I'd like to stay with that network. I don't like be imposed upon as to which network I want to switch to.

"Also the actual O2 network doesn't have every good coverage where I live; Orange has good coverage where I live, that's why chose them first, and why want to stay with them."


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