Orange finds juicy deal for Apple iPhone

ORANGE has landed the rights to carry Apple&rsquo;s flagship product the iPhone, ending rival O2&rsquo;s exclusivity deal with the firm.<br /><br />The mobile operator, which is owned by France Telecom, said it would start selling the iPhone later this year, although it has yet to decide on pricing and exact release date.<br /><br />Orange said yesterday that its 3G coverage, the widest in the UK, would help it attract more users, building on the impact of the planned merger with T-Mobile, which was announced last week.<br /><br />A spokesman for Orange said: &ldquo;Everyone here has been hoping for the iPhone and the mood has lifted dramatically.&rdquo;<br /><br />Coupled with the tie-up, which will create a mobile phones giant with nearly 37 per cent of UK market share, the iPhone deal represents a bitter blow for O2, which had enjoyed sole rights to the must-have gadget since its launch.<br /><br />O2 has previously boasted of the increased revenues it has enjoyed as a result of being the only carrier to offer the iPhone in the UK to date, while Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao said earlier this year that his business had been hurt by not having access to the popular handset.<br /><br />Orange&rsquo;s announcement is now likely to spark a slew of similar deals with other UK mobile phone operators, analysts said yesterday, as Apple looks to expand its reach. Any new carriers are also likely to try and curry favour by undercutting O2&rsquo;s deals.<br /><br />Orange would not reveal the release date for the handset yesterday, but it is sure to be on the shelves of its stores in time for Christmas.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Apple signalled the continued success of the iPhone yesterday as it announced that it had sold its two billionth app &ndash; software hosted on the phones &ndash; and had now sold over 50m iPhones and iPod touches.