Vodafone to sell the iPhone next year

The operator has followed Orange in announcing it will stock Apple's smartphone in the UK market, as O2's exclusivity on the handset draws to a close

Vodafone is to carry the iPhone in the UK early next year, the operator said on Tuesday.

The news follows Orange's announcement on Monday that it too will start selling the iPhone, a move that will end O2's two-year exclusivity on Apple's popular handset. Unlike Vodafone, however, Orange will begin stocking the iPhone before the end of this year.

The Vodafone Group already sells the iPhone through 13 of its operators around the world, while Orange stocks the handset in 28 countries and territories. Neither Vodafone nor Orange has announced details of their iPhone pricing plans for the UK market.

Of the other UK operators, T-Mobile has said it has no plans to offer the iPhone, and 3 has not indicated its intentions regarding the handset.

In a statement on Tuesday, Matt Wheeler, managing director of the mobile-phone comparison site Omio.com, said: "Orange has all but confirmed a pre-Christmas release whilst Vodafone has admitted an early 2010 launch, all but counting themselves out of the inevitable price war that will ensue."

"2010 is a long wait. It is difficult to say whether their as-yet unannounced pricing strategy and incentives [will] be strong enough to keep the Vodafone faithful onside once the iPhone becomes a free-for-all," Wheeler added.

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