Orange and Vodafone have confirmed the iPhone will be available to select indirect partners, dealers told Mobile News last week.
Vodafone dealer Fonehouse has already publicised to customers it will stock the device, while JAG claims it expects first shipments from Orange in the next few weeks in time for the December rush.
Fonehouse managing director Clive Bayley said: “We’ll sell the life out of it. We’ve wanted the iPhone since its release two years ago, and it will be a massive seller when we get stock of it.”
JAG managing director John George said he expected to receive iPhone stock as an Orange ‘federated’ dealer. “What makes this more exciting is that we’ll be stocking it in time for the all-important Christmas market. People will recognise this as a great present and it will give retail a massive boost in what has been a very tough year,” he said.
Get Connected managing director Damian Cole raised concern over distribution timing. He said: “The question is whether we will be able to sell these phones in time for the Christmas market, which of course is a critical period for high street retail. If we can then we’ll no doubt enjoy a bumper period but if not, and distribution is restricted, it could cost us new connections and upgrades.”
Mobile Phone House proprietor Ziggy Ahmed worried Apple’s new network partners will enter a vicious price war and offer iPhone deals direct that the indirect channel cannot match.
“It is a worry we won’t be able to compete. However, for now, we must look forward to selling the iPhone because it’s the best news the dealer channel has had in a long time.”
Mark Finlayson from Next Communications added: “I am concerned the networks will heavily discount the iPhone through direct channels and exclude us from being able to compete. This is what they did with the Blackberry Storm, which we made a £100 loss on to compete with the direct offers. If we can o er it SIM-free, it will make life easier for us.”
Uplands managing director Paul Hooper said he had experiencedstock shortages of the iPhone on O2. “There have been issues with limited stock availability but you expect that with a product like the iPhone.”
Fones U Like director Sohail Ratansi said O2 would suffer increased churn and a lack of interest in its new exclusive Palm Pre device. “There’s a danger people will forget about the Palm Pre. There are some customers that are only with O2 because of the iPhone and it’s not the network of choice in the dealer channel.”
Sprint managing director Paul Leonard said he was looking forward to selling the device on Vodafone over O2. He said: “I haven’t been able to sell the iPhone with O2 as I couldn’t give the commitment O2 wanted without degrading our relationships with other networks. The customer experience from people who have had iPhones unlocked or purchased via European channels have said it works excellently on Vodafone. There are so many customers who will migrate just for the iPhone.”
Indeed, Digital Phone Company chairman Phil Rider said he too was keen to sell the iPhone on Vodafone. “We have been getting an increasing number of business customers asking us for the iPhone, but we couldn’t sell it. The thing that seems to set it apart is the applications and the way it has marketed them.”
Intek managing director Manny Hussain warned: “We must keep the iPhone in perspective. Companies can get sucked into allocating a hugely disproportionate effort to it, neglecting their core business. I was dismayed Apple decided to go with O2 only. It could have had a much bigger share of the UK market before handset manufacturers managed to catch up.
“There are a lot of people who now own ‘iPhone killers’ who will not switch because they have most of what they need from such a device. Apple cannot now win them back in big numbers.”
But Hussain said Apple had boosted the industry. “Apple must be given huge credit for giving indigenous manufacturers a nudge. It gave the whole industry a boost with its phenomenal marketing success. It did help drive customers to mobile shops and many have taken options besides the iPhone.”