Unlocked iPhones for Belgium

 Apple’s planning an international campaign to boost iPhone sales and propel it towards its ten million unit sales target for 2008.

Emerging reports claim Apple will introduce the 3G iPhone to the Belgian market by June, making available through all local mobile network operators.

Earlier this week La Repubblica reported that the iPhone will debut in Italy with Telecom Italia but will be sold unlocked.

These reports confirm Apple is abandoning its previous bring to market iPhone strategy, in which it reached exclusive distribution deals with a key partner in each territory.

While these deals have seen some success in terms of attracting new users to the chosen networks, in sales terms things haven’t truly worked out.

The Italy and Belgium deals seemingly propose a new M.O., in which one local network may have exclusive distribution rights for the device for a short time (a month or two) after which it will be made more widely available from multiple networks. Essentially users will be able to buy an iPhone and use them on the network of their choice. It will be sold unlocked.

Apple’s iPhone sales in Europe were dampened by its previous strategy. Mobile phone users here are a sophisticated bunch, and disliked it that Apple forced them to sign-up to a single network, rather than being able to shop around for the best deal or the most effective coverage for their area. A move away from exclusivity also removes one of the primary reasons customers weren’t purchasing the device.

Apple’s also set to answer a second major criticism – lack of 3G support, with an iPhone capable of support for the fast wireless data transfer network standard expected to ship by June. 

With a host of applications set to make their debut at WWDC 2008 (also in June), and new features within the in-development iPhone 2.0 software, Apple is also responding customer demands for features such as: MMS messaging, Bluetooth streaming support, voice over IP and enterprise class security.

Price remains a sticking point, but it seems the company is plotting a course to make iPhones more widely accessible. American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu yesterday predicted: "In addition to a 3G version, our sources indicate that the 2.5G model could see a minor casing change and lower price point closer to $299-349 vs. its $399 price today."

Apple also seems to be plotting a more diverse iPhone roadmap, planning future versions which should be cheaper, if less well-featured, than before.


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