Networks stick with grey iPhones


T-Mobile and 3 will continue to source grey stock Apple iPhones from Europe as sweeteners in UK retention deals. The actions, which are ongoing, are said to have hindered T-Mobile’s chances of securing a UK iPhone distribution deal.

3 last week ruled out suggestions of it becoming the next operator to stock the Apple iPhone despite allowing retentions staff to offer discretionary unlocked iPhones to customers who contacted customer services requesting their PAC to port from the network.

3 is understood to have sourced a small number of iPhones from European distributors. The network released an official statement saying it will instead “concentrate on launching a number of other data centric devices in the near future”.

A 3 spokesperson said: “We will not currently be ranging the Apple iPhone. We’ve got several strong handsets coming soon that we know our customers will love.”

Sources also told Mobile News that T-Mobile had been overlooked by Apple to stock the iPhone, with it too importing, grey stock from Europe in a bid to retain customers.

T-Mobile is understood to have been offering the 3G device to customers in August through its retention teams, causing speculation it would soon be stocking the device through its direct channels.

Like 3, T-Mobile was off ering it to high spending customers who contacted the network wishing to port their number to a rival network.

However, sources said the move was not authorised by Apple, and as a result, the manufacturer decided against allowing the network to stock the device.

A source said: “Apple wasn’t happy with T-Mobile for selling the device in the UK when it had an exclusive with O2. As a result it is refusing to do business with them now, so they’ve shot themselves in the foot.”

Another source said news of T-Mobile’s merger with Orange had hindered its ability to strike a UK iPhone contract with Apple.

“As part of the merger, T-Mobile is going to become the budget brand, behind Orange as the premium brand. Apple doesn’t work with budget brands, only premium brands, and it is thinking long-term here.”

T-Mobile did not comment on the issue of grey stock or its merger with Orange.

A T-Mobile spokesperson said: “Deutsche Telekom has contractual relations with Apple for the supply of the iPhone in a number of European markets and we are striving to extend these arrangements into new markets where appropriate.”

Ovum analyst Steven Hartley said Apple’s new deals with Orange and Vodafone means T-Mobile and 3 are left trailing further behind.

“This is another example of them slipping behind in the mobile data space. 3 was founded on mobile data services, but is now seen more as a purveyor of cheap minutes and texts,” he said.

“For 3 the issue of being subscale is far more pressing than not having a device on its portfolio. Both will benefi t from the halo eff ect from the renewed iPhone hype.”