As Steve Jobs continued his European barnstorming tour in Berlin, introducing the iPhone to applauding audiences, it is becoming apparent just how important Wi-Fi is for the success of the phone.
As the Apple CEO and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile unveiled the combo mobile phone, iPod music player, and Internet surfing device Wednesday, T-Mobile noted that it is the biggest provider of Wi-Fi in the world, with more than 20,000 global hotspots and 8,600 of them in Germany alone. T-Mobile's hotspots are familiar to U.S. users who frequent Starbucks coffee houses.
T-Mobile noted that its Wi-Fi users can get download speeds of 11 Mbps compared with about 220 Kbps over its EDGE network. T-Mobile said also that it would offer EDGE networking service throughout its entire network in Germany by the end of the year.
While the EDGE network serves subscribers well for mobile phone calls, it is slow for downloading data; users can download data and multimedia content quickly over Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi is even more important for iPhone users in the U.K. where, according to media reports, the exclusive iPhone provider O2 covers just 30% of the British population. To help make up for the skimpy coverage, subscribers will be offered free connections to Wi-Fi provider the Cloud, which operates more than 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.K.
Jobs has indicated that the iPhone will be able to take advantage of more robust networks as they are deployed in Europe and the U.S. Wi-Fi's successor technology, WiMax, already is being rolled out globally and is expected to pick up momentum in 2008, for instance.
The iPhones introduced in Europe essentially match the device that was unveiled three months ago in the United States. There were no pricing surprises in Europe, either: the 8-Gbyte model is priced at $553 in Germany and at $536 in the U.S. Both phones are scheduled to be offered in the U.K. and Germany beginning Nov. 9.
So far, there haven't been any major iPhone coverage surprises in Europe -- O2 and T-Mobile were long expected to be the winners of exclusive rights to market the device. Next stop for Jobs is likely to be France, where the Orange network is reported to have been selected as the exclusive provider in that country.