How to buy an iPhone in the UK

24th Jun 2007 | 23:00

How to buy an iPhone in the UK

You want an iPhone in the UK? Here's how

Unbelievably, the Apple iPhone launch is now just a few days way. At long last, after all the hype and speculation, you'll be able to get your sweaty, trembling hands on the most sought-after gadget of the year.

At least, you'll be able to get your paws on an iPhone if you live in the States. For most of us in the UK, 29 June will simply crank up our already lustful feelings for the iPhone. It'll be towards the end of 2007 before the official European release.

But what if you can't wait? What should you do if you live in the UK and want to get yourself an iPhone right now? Here are a few tips for would-be iPhone owners. The simplest bit of advice? Get over there - FAST!

Go to the States and queue

If you want to be first you'll have to be quick. The blogosphere is alive with iPhone fans speculating about how long they'll have to queue on 29 June. It's likely that many will start queuing on 28 June (or before) just so they can be first to scratch that iPhone itch.

There'll be around 2,000 stores selling the iPhone in the US ( AT&T and Apple ). Official guidance from AT&T states that there should be no waiting lists and no pre-selling. But a report by researchers Channel Checkers found that 64 per cent of stores are reported as having waiting lists. The average is around 25 - which just means longer queues.

Don't buy from Apple

If you've got a friend in the US on the launch date, or if you're likely to be there yourself and fancy picking up one of the little blighters while you're there - don't go to an Apple store. So says Steve Jobs, apparently. Blog publisher Arianna Huffington buttonholed him at a conference and asked him the best way to get hold of an iPhone.

The surprising answer was, she writes, not from Apple: "Don't go to an Apple store," Jobs told me. "It will be a madhouse there. People will be lined up around the block, sleeping on the sidewalk to get one. Go to an AT&T/Cingular store. Most people don't know that they will be selling them too." So now you know.

Buying on eBay

You just know that eBay is going to be awash with iPhones minutes after they go on sale. You also know the sellers will be asking silly money. Don't fall for it - the iPhone isn't a limited edition (there's rumoured to be 3 million iPhones ready for the launch).

So the longer you wait, the more there'll be and the cheaper the price. And don't bother trying to pre-order one from eBay before the release date - the site has removed every such offer.

Even after 29 June, be wary, and don't consider parting with your dosh unless the vendor's got some decent history on the site. And preferably a picture of the actual model they're offering to send you.

Other places to buy

Several UK sites are offering pre-orders on iPhones. But none of them know exactly what it's going to cost yet, with contract details factored in. As with eBay, beware of Amazon' s affiliate sellers - whatever they say, they don't have them yet.

PROBLEMS TO LOOK OUT FOR:

Two-year contracts

Apple has stated that the iPhone won't be available SIM-free from outlets - although rumours persist that SIM-free iPhones will be sold. Buyers will have to take out a two year contract with US network AT&T (formerly Cingular). That's bound to bump up the all-in price beyond the prices that are currently being touted: $499 (£250) for the 4GB model and $599 (£300) for the 8GB model.

Then again, Apple is no stranger to withholding information. And no time limit appears to have been set on this exclusive contract deal. So there could still be a chance of SIM-free iPhones available soon after launch.

Using a US iPhone in the UK

Of course you'll need to get a UK SIM (unless you're keen to pay roaming charges on the AT&T contract it came with). With most phones, this isn't a problem; but with the iPhone, who knows? The device will probably have been locked to US network AT&T. And although it should be possible to unlock it - many dealers will do it for a small fee, if they can - it's not yet clear what sort of protection Apple may have included on it.

We know that users will have to register it using an iTunes account , possibly enabling a further level of lock-in security. iPods have never made a point of being user-modifiable and so it's likely to be the same with the iPhone. Someone will figure out a way to crack it, but it'll probably cost you - and it may take some time too.

Are you being served?

The high demand and hype for the iPhone, and the expected exodus from virtual and real-world shops on 29 June, will be followed by the inevitable surge in service enquiries.

This means that even if you do get your iPhone quickly, you may have to wait to get it to work satisfactorily. Queries through official channels are likely to be bogged down. And you can forget about advice from Apple about using the iPhone with UK networks - at least until the still-unspecified European launch towards the end of 2007.

No 3G

The first incarnation of the iPhone in the US will not have a 3G internet connection. Instead it'll use the 2.5G equivalent EDGE, which is popular in the US but hasn't been employed by any network in the UK. So your iPhone browsing experience will be limited to standard GPRS - glacially slow if you're used to using a 3G account. Just as UK networks are upgrading to even faster HSDPA, you'll be back in the virtual bus lane.

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