Vodafone joins European iPad subsidy battle

Vodafone is in talks with Apple to offer a heavily subsidised iPad after rivals Orange and T-Mobile announced earlier this week they would sell the tablets for less than half price with a contract.

The plan by the three operators is to make iPads available in their main European markets in time for the pre-Christmas sales period. However, the iPads, which are currently sold with month-by-month data plans and no subsidy, could be offered for as little as €280--but with a two-year lock-in contract costing €35 per month. Presently, a high-end 3G iPad costs around €800.

A recent UK consumer survey conducted by Broadband Genie found that over 60 per cent would never pay €480 or more for an iPad.

While the details behind these deals with Apple will remain a closely guarded secret, it would seem likely that Apple will have negotiated a revenue-sharing deal based around operator traffic. The company might also have been keen to strike these deals having seen a rival, namely Samsung, gaining significant traction with its smaller tablet device, the Galaxy Tab, which is reported to have sold over 600,000 units in the three weeks since its launch.

Interestingly, O2 Telefonica has ruled itself out of this pricing war, claiming that it would continue to sell the iPad without a subsidy. "The O2 micro-SIMs with our great value iPad tariffs are still available for customers who have purchased the device elsewhere," said the company.

However, O2's reluctance to enter the battle could be due to rumours that Apple will announce an upgraded version of the iPad next April, and doesn't want to be seen locking its subscribers into long-term contracts now.

The speculation surrounding the yet-to-be-announced iPad 2 has the device being available before Christmas (highly unlikely), having USB support on either side, the lock switch being replaced with a mute switch and, more importantly, the addition of front and back cameras allowing video conferencing and the popular facetime. It will likely also include more memory and a much longer battery life.

For more:
- see this Mobile News article
- see this Rethink Wireless article
- see this Choice Opinion article

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