2008 Year in Review: Apple's iPhone becomes the benchmark

Having been hampered by being tied to EDGE, sales of this first version of the iPhone slowed markedly as news that the 3G version would be launched in Europe by mid-year. Prior to the 3G launch, this iconic handset had been purchased in its 100,000s by a public eager to sample the obvious delight of Apple's first mobile handset.

While a number of research analysts reported European shipments had been below expectations in Q4/07 and Q1/08, the operators that had signed exclusive distribution deals for the iPhone had nothing but praise for the product. René Obermann, the CEO of Deutsche Telekom, went as far as revealing that German iPhone customers used the mobile internet services 30 times more than other cell phone subscribers, while one third of all T-Mobile iPhone customers had chosen the most expensive plan.

Following the launch of the 3G iPhone, Obermann stated it had sold over 150,000 of the handsets in Europe in three months, but had also managed to be successful in competing against the iPhone in the US with a portfolio of products from HTC, RIM, and Samsung.

But indications that all was not well with sales in Europe came from Orange France which slashed €50 off the price of the 3G iPhone in November. Rumours also began to circulate that O2 was working on a strategy to enable it to negotiate iPhone pricing with potential subscribers, a subject currently strictly forbidden in their contract with Apple. And this month Orange France was ordered by the French anti-competitive watchdog to tear up its exclusivity contract, thereby enabling rival operators, most notably Bouygues Telecom, to offer the 3G iPhone.

Significance: Other handset vendors have frantically tried to emulate the success of the iPhone by rushing out touchscreen phones almost on a monthly basis. None, including Nokia, seemed to have dented the continuing allure that Apple has managed to instil with both business and consumer users - and the iPhone continues to be rated #1 in many consumer polls and reviews.

In terms of overall shipping numbers, the iPhone is insignificant, but it has undoubtedly set the benchmark for 2008 and could well continue this throughout 2009.

Related articles:
iPhone boosts data 30x for T-Mobile Germany
European iPhone shortage, or more hype?
Tough going for iPhone in Europe
Orange France slashes iPhone price
iPhone a great success in Germany, claims Deutsche Telekom head

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