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Euro iPhone launch will reveal 3G handset for Vodafone, T-Mobile

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A new 3G (European) version of the iPhone will be launched Monday in the UK by Apple - in a joint promotion with Vodafone, T-Mobile of Germany, and Carphone Warehouse. It should answer the disappointment with the US version of the iPhone which has been widely slammed for its poor performance as a phone.

Hints of the European launch emerged yesterday when Bill Condie of the London Evening Standard tipped Vodafone to be the official carrier, which will be confirmed Monday. But Voda is just part of the picture, with Apple going for a three-pronged European strategy with carriers - again, responding to disappointment in America with the exclusive deal with AT&T/Cingular.

Shipment date is still unknown, but "on course" for the year-end date predicted last October by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Vodafone is currently in an ideal position to take on the iPhone, because its 3G network is hugely under-utilised. Pricing on mobile data is normally prohibitive, but Vodafone has recently revised its 3G data charges down, following "rip-off" complaints from users.

It may even be possible that European data prices will match, or be an improvement on the eye-watering charges announced by AT&T in North America.

The iPhone requires a high speed Internet connection to function properly, both because of its excellent Internet browsing capacity, and also because of its requirement for high quality video, which limits the appeal of the US version.

Writer Condie quoted sources inside Credit Suisse which suggested that France Telecom was in line for a franchise. That is unlikely to be fulfilled, possibly because of Orange's insistence on "strong branding" on any handset it carries. Orange has irritated several phone makers by insisting on disabling technical and user-oriented features which didn't sit with Orange commercial policy.

The appointment of Carphone Warehouse as a virtual network carrier will be a big surprise, however.

T-Mobile CEO Rene Oberman was reported to be "ecstatic" at getting a joint contract, according to insiders. He's expected to be present at the Apple party Monday when the new device is unveiled.

The American version, using only 2G phone technology, goes on sale today. Queues have been forming outside Apple (and other) retail outlets in New York since Tuesday this week.

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