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9/18/2007
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The iPhone Debuts In The U.K.

But other European countries must hold their collective breath to see which service providers will get rights to market the phone.

Apple Tuesday announced that its iPhone will be marketed exclusively in the U.K. by Telefonica O2. But other European countries must hold their collective breath to see which service providers will get rights to market the phone in a move that will squeeze the last drop of anticipatory promotion out of the device.

The Apple-O2 iPhone mirrors the phone deal Apple forged in the U.S. with AT&T, and the device features Apple's popular iTunes software giving users an easy way to search for and purchase music. The phone also operates on the same slow Edge network, but also on Wi-Fi hotspots for higher speed results.

"U.S. iPhone customer satisfaction is off the charts," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement, "and we can't wait to let U.K. customers get their hands on it and learn what they think of it." The phone will be available Nov. 9 for 269 pounds ($536), with monthly service charges ranging from 35 pounds to 55 pounds a month, depending on usage.

Apple in London didn't make any announcements covering other European countries. Orange has been reported to be ready to offer the iPhone in France, while Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile is in line to offer the phone in Germany, Austria, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Hungary, according to media reports. Announcements for those countries could come as early as this week.

That leaves Spain sticking out like a sore thumb without any rumored iPhone availability. However, since Spain's Telefonica has nailed down the exclusive iPhone deal in the U.K., many consumers are betting that the Spanish telecommunications company will obtain rights to the phone in the Iberian Peninsula, too.

The European rollout of the iPhone, however, has been blind-sided by Apple's announcement earlier this month of its iPod Touch, which, like the iPhone, can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Many of Apple's diehard aficionados will be stressed to choose between the two devices -- the iPod Touch wasn't available to cannibalize the iPhone when it was first announced in June in the U.S.

London's Guardian newspaper quoted a telecom operator -- presumably one who lost out in a bid to sell the iPhone -- as describing the Apple-O2 deal as "madly money-losing."

In an article Monday, the newspaper said "many mobile phone company executives are unimpressed with the way the California computer group has conducted businesses this side of the Atlantic, although similar tactics were used in the U.S."

The story said it is "understood" that O2 "will return to Apple as much as 40% of any revenues it makes from customers' use of the device."

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