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Apple ends iPhone exclusive distribution deal in the UK ... US next?

Cellphone provider Orange has announced a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in the UK, a move which will see the end of O2's exclusive deal. How long until Apple does the same in the US?

Cellphone provider Orange has announced a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in the UK, a move which will see the end of O2's exclusive deal.  How long until Apple does the same in the US?

The announcement is short and to the point:

Orange UK and Apple have reached an agreement to bring iPhone 3G and 3GS to Orange UK customers later this year.

Orange, which has the largest 3G network covering more people in the UK than any other operator, will sell iPhone in all Orange direct channels including Orange shops, the Orange webshop and Orange telesales channels, as well as selected high street partners.

More information on pricing, tariffs and availability dates will be released in due course.

There are two factors at work here. First, I think that it's no coincidence that this deal follows the announcement that Orange plans to merge with T-Mobile to become the largest cellphone service provider in the UK. However, secondly, it has to be that exclusive distribution deals only go so far. Some customers can't or won't shift providers no matter what phone or deal is on offer. It makes sense that Apple would start to make the iPhone available through other providers.

The day is coming where AT&T's reign of terror over iPhone owners will come to an end. The announcement will have more fanfare than the one in the UK, but it will come ... and in my mind, it can't come soon enough.