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Aussies to get 3G iPhone in June... and unlocked?

No carrier tie-ins for roll-out Down Under, dealers told

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Australians may not only be among the first folk to get their mitts on the upcoming 3G iPhone, but they may also be offered the handset without ties to networks.

So claims a poster on Down Under website MacTalk. The site's correspondent alleges the info comes via local resellers who were briefed on the launch by Apple this week.

Here's the gist of the claim: Apple will release the iPhone in Oz in the last week of June. It'll be supported by multiple carriers and there will be no contract ties. Local Mac resellers will be able to sell the handset too, not just Apple and carriers.

There's no specific reference to the 3G iPhone, but if the speculation that Apple is going to release such a handset in June is correct, it seems likely that Australians will go straight to the 3G model without being offered the current, 2.5G model first.

June is expected to see the debut of iPhone OS 2.0 and the launch of Apple's over-the-air download store. If going releasing a major new version of your OS isn't reason enough to upgrade to 3G, then offering your customers the ability to transfer software straight to the handset certainly is.

All the buzz - and some pointers within the recently released third beta version of the iPhone software development kit (SDK) - indicates the next iPhone will be 3G. The story has reached the stage that Apple will disappoint massively if the upcoming iPhone revamp isn't accompanied by a new, 3G handset.

MacTalk's correspondent suggests that Australian telcos have consistently failed to be charmed by the iPhone, leading Apple to adopt a non-exclusivity approach. That said, unlike other territories, in Australia only Telstra has an Edge network so there's no competitive impetus for it to take the current handset. All the local carriers, however, have 3G, so Apple might yet persuade one to stand out from the crowd by offering the 3G iPhone exclusively. But it does seem that it hasn't managed to do so so far.

With no carrier exclusivity, Apple's forced to offer either an unlocked handset or locked ones for each of the networks. The latter's too much effort, we'd say, making it easier to just unlock the thing and have done with it. If that's the case, there's no reason not to allow all and sundry to sell the phone - the more the merrier, in fact - which explains why Aussie Mac resellers will be able to offer the handset. For now, their US and European colleagues can't.

This new-found freedom all hinges on Apple failing to sign up a carrier, and we wouldn't put it past the company to continue to push for an exclusive deal right up until the eleventh hour.

Or Apple may have reached the stage where it believes the iPhone now has sufficient mindshare - and thus certainty of demand and sales - that it can risk losing the share of data revenue it gets from its current carrier partners to focus on making money out of the handset and associated services alone.

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