Up until now, Britain's Telef√≥nica-owned O2 has been the country's exclusive carrier of iPhones. This is set to change next year, when rivals Orange and Vodaphone will begin offering iPhones of their own.
In response, Telef√≥nica chairman and CEO Matthew Key announced that O2 will unlock out-of-contract iPhones for use on other networks:
"Once the iPhone becomes available on other UK networks, we will allow O2 customers to unlock their iPhones, although of course they will still need to honor any outstanding contract period they have. At the end of their contract period, they are entirely free to move to another operator."
End-of-contract unlocking of cell phones is the status quo in the UK — this is just the first time it's been offered for the House of Jobs' cash cow. On the other hand, O2's generous data terms (unlimited and — for the first year — free) is also a huge incentive for current customers not to jump ship at contract's end.
So how does this affect the USA? Right now, AT&T's stranglehold on the iPhone offsets the fact that their network and customer service — how can we put this delicately? — suck. At the same time, lots of Verizon and Sprint customers who desire an iPhone are loathe to settle for the Death Star as a carrier. If and when the iPhone shows up on other networks, AT&T will have to offer beaucoup perks and otherwise jump through hoops to keep current and potential customers from fleeing in droves.
[Via Wired Gadget Lab]