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11/28/2007
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France's Orange Debuts iPhone For A Low Standalone Price

Just before the countrywide release, the telecom is offering the coveted mobile phone in a standalone version without a service plan for $519 less than T-Mobile.

The price of Apple's iPhone took another price hit Wednesday as France Telecom's Orange carrier began marketing the coveted mobile phone in a standalone version without a service plan for $964 (649 euros).

Previously, the official low price for a standalone iPhone was $1,483 available from Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile unit.

Orange began offering the iPhone in 12 stores in France Wednesday in a prelude to a countrywide offering on Thursday. A spokesman for Orange said there was intense interest in the iPhone as evidenced by the 63,000 fans who had registered to receive information on the device at Orange's special iPhone Web site.

Resellers in Europe, who have already been doing a brisk business selling the iPhone in unofficial gray markets, have said they have been hoping for a low price on the smartphone. Orange has inadvertently obliged, but the $964 price is still higher than the $600 that some resellers have been reported to be charging for a standalone iPhone.

An iPhone feature called visual voicemail was unveiled in the Orange offering; the service provider said it is "an industry first," enabling users to view a list of their voicemails and go directly to selected messages without the necessity of listening to previous messages.

Four long-range Orange plans, which range from $73 a month to $177 a month, are being offered and all include unlimited access to e-mail.

The standalone iPhone is available for $815; a $148 fee is charged to unlock the phone, bringing the total to $964.

The International Herald Tribune reported Tuesday that the iPhone has been available in France and elsewhere for months at prices that range from $594 to $1,485 on a standalone basis.

The newspaper said reseller Phone & Phone reported it has been selling iPhones for $1,008 without a subscription plan and for as low as $444 when purchased with a contract plan from Bouygues Telecom, an Orange competitor.

In the U.S., the iPhone is offered exclusively by AT&T. European telecom regulations differ from country to country, paving the way for drastically different marketing campaigns including selling the iPhone as a standalone device.

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