Apple abandons iPhone exclusivity in Europe

Italy will be the first country to see the iPhone offered by not one, but two mobile phone operators: Vodafone and Telecom Italia. Apple signed a deal with Vodafone to sell the iPhone in India, New Zealand, Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Portugal, South Africa and Turkey.

Why has Apple abandoned its policy of selling the iPhone exclusively through one partner? Analysts cite the disappointing sales of the iPhone in the UK, Germany and France, although some attribute that more to the absence of 3G capability in the phone. Moreover, the price of the iPhone is considered very high in Europe and that has led operators such as Deutsche Telekom to slash prices from 399 EUR to 99 EUR. In Italy, Apple will have difficulty selling the iPhone with a contract. Most Italian customers (91%) are on prepaid plans.

Add to all that the extremely high data roaming charges when you go from one country to another and you understand why the iPhone has not been selling well. Operators charge as much as 15 EUR per megabyte if you upload and download data when you are outside your home country. Of course you have no idea how many megabytes you’ve already been uploading and downloading, and the carriers prefer to keep it that way. You come home and at the end of the month, voila, a bill for 10,000 EUR!

Until European operators sell inexpensive, flat-rate (throughout Europe) data plans, people will cling to their voice-only, prepaid plans. It does not matter how fancy the phone is.

Personally I would get the iPhone with 3G. In fact I have been waiting for the 3G version to come out, but I’m very worried about those nasty roaming charges. That’s why I am thankful for the increasing number of Wi-Fi hotspots and hotzones, not to mention, open Wi-Fi networks in Europe.

Please post your comments and thoughts below. Are you also waiting for a 3G iPhone? Does it matter to you?