Distribution joy as Apple releases hold on iPhone

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Tech Data Mobile, Ingram Micro Mobility and Westcoast to offer SIM-free range from July

Tech Data Mobile, Ingram Micro Mobility and Westcoast have become the first ever official UK distributors of the Apple iPhone.

Mobile News can exclusively reveal the trio have been selected by Apple to stock the full range of SIM-free mobile devices from July.

All three distributors and Apple declined to comment as Mobile News went to press, but early reaction from the channel was positive.

“It’s great news for the channel and about time that Apple has done this,” said MD of Vodafone platinum partner CommsXchange Ross Cooper.

Multi-network B2B dealer Town & Country Unified Comms MD Geraint George added: “It shows Apple is relaxing the rules for the channel. This will definitely make the process of buying stock smoother and make life a lot easier for all dealers.”

U-turn

The move marks a dramatic change in Apple’s route to market strategy and the first time stock can be bought through the indirect channel (officially) unlocked from a mobile network and in any quantity.

Mobile News understands Apple put out a tender for the contract around three months ago. Details on who else applied have not been confirmed.

Sources closely involved say Apple, who has sold more than 700 million iPhones globally since 2007, is keen to expand its market reach, particularly in the IT and fixed line channels – markets West Coast, Ingram and Tech Data thrive in. All currently have relationships with Apple for other products, including MAC computers and iPads.

Value-added offerings, such as MDM, security and finance are also said to have played a role in the tender as Apple looks to boost “stickiness” of its brand.

Tech Data and Ingram already hold iPhone distribution deals in a number of countries including Germany and France, among others.

Access for all

No restrictions on who can buy stock are expected, regardless of their size or partner status with their airtime provider. This is something which has irked smaller players who can only buy
stock directly through Apple (online and in stores) or unofficial means.

Dealers had also expressed frustration at having to purchase handsets directly from Apple’s retail stores, complaining that it was a time-consuming process.

Matthew Brown, director of Belfast-based Vodafone Platinum Partner Connect Telecom said: “Going through one of the big distributors will make life a hell of a lot easier.”

B2B ambitions

Apple is keen to strengthen its position in the B2B market, having slipped behind rival Samsung in the UK. According to recent market analysis from Canalys, the iPhone made up 26 per cent of all B2B sales in Q1 (January to March), compared with leader Samsung on 29 per cent. Microsoft sits third on 24 per cent, while BlackBerry has just four per cent.

Leading EE direct dealer Charterhouse Voice and Data CEO Mark Brooks-Wadham expects a positive impact: “It’s a win-win situation. More availability for the channel will mean more handsets in B2B for Apple.”

Daisy and Data Select’s existing B2B iPhone order fulfilment deals on behalf of Vodafone and O2 respectively are expected to be unaffected.

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