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O2 starts 3G iPhone stampede - and runs away

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O2 today started taking pre-orders on its website for Apple's iPhone 3G - and stopped taking them again within minutes of opening the doors.

Customers were told by text message that new iPhones were available to existing customers who upgrade. But they were presented this morning with error messages on the O2 upgrade site after filling in forms and told to contact customer services by telephone.

"Which I did," said Reg reader Carol Dew, "only to be advised that they couldn't take telephone orders until Friday, and they were very sorry for the inconvenience, but they had 2000 other people just like me calling them this morning, and their managers had advised them that the site was overwhelmed. Because they didn't anticipate the demand. But when I asked how many iPhones were in stock, since I was afraid they'd run out before I could order mine, I was told that they'd asked customers to 'register their interest' on the website (did that; hence getting the text this morning). And that every time someone registered their interest, they ordered in an iPhone for them. Yet they didn't anticipate today's demand."

So, the courier won't be calling around on July 11 with the new iPhone. For now, you must content yourself with a gander at the tariffs. Start looking here.

UK customers have four plans to choose from, with prices ranging from £30 to £75 a month for the 8GB and 16GB models. So, for £30 a month, you get 75 minutes call time, 125 texts and "unlimited" Wi-Fi and data - and a phone that costs £99 for the 8GB version and £159 for the 16GB. The usual caveats apply about "excessive data charges": in other words don't use it as a modem for your PC. And make sure that you are not gouged on roaming charges when you step outside Blighty.

O2's starter tariff looks designed for a headline price - that no-one will take up. Step up to £35 a month and you get 600 mins and 500 texts in your plan. Go to £45 a month and grab a "free" 8GB iPhone 3G. Commit to a stonking £75 and O2 throws in the 16GB iPhone for free.

And yes, O2 is not selling contract-free iPhones. In the small print, it mutters about invalidating warranties if you unlock the phone. But you knew that already. A pay-as-you-go phone is in the works, to emerge some time this year. ®

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