In a move that has provoked much industry speculation, Vodafone has just launched a new iPhone portal in the UK--a country where O2 has exclusive distribution rights today.
The company has given no particular reason for this development, other than the portal is available to all iPhone users, including non-Vodafone customers. "This is a group website, not a UK initiative. This is a beta so just a testing phase to try and help customers get the most out of the internet. Vodafone has no plans right now to sell the iPhone in the UK." The portal is stocked with UK-specific content and can be personalised to suit the interests of iPhone users.
Other than to support SIM-free iPhones already available in the UK, some commentators believe Vodafone is preparing to become involved with the iPhone this year.
Separately, the company has confirmed it has been looking at other Android phones to complement the new HTC Magic, and also hinted Android might appear without Google in the future. Rachel Williams from Vodafone highlighted the fact that while the HTC Magic contains all the tightly integrated Google features consumers have come to expect, like Google Mail, future offerings might be more of a basic package, where operators will want to put their own clients on the handsets instead.
Vodafone has also appointed a new exec to lead its group portfolio management team with a wide-ranging brief covering consumer and business devices, as well as leading own-brand devices. The company has previously stated it is keen to see Vodafone branded handset with low cost Chinese partners such as Huawei and ZTE. Vodafone has already begun centralising more of its handset buying from Luxembourg in a bid to cut costs.
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