Following European launches in Britain and Germany, the iPhone has landed in French markets. Orange, the mobile phone and Internet branch of France Telecom, has the exclusive rights to sell the Apple handset in the country that gave us Paris. Twelve outlets in France are offering the device for 749 euros today, before the full launch scheduled for tomorrow.
Over 50,000 people have already placed orders with Orange. Several French Internet sites are undercutting the price and Orange has threatened legal action based on its exclusive deal with Apple to sell the iPhone within France.
MobileCrunch reported last week that a lawsuit brought by Vodafone (Apple iPhone Unlocked in Europe) forced T-Mobile of Germany to sell an unlocked version of the iPhone. A locked version of the handset goes for 399 euros in Germany while an unlocked iPhone costs 999 euros. Orange sells the iPhone for 399 euros if the customer uses Orange as the carrier and charges an extra 350 euros for the unlocked version. As MobileCrunch predicted yesterday, this is well below the German price.
Price differences between countries selling the iPhone is bound to create competition between vendors in Europe and elsewhere. Someone in Germany can simply catch a train to France and buy an unlocked iPhone at a savings of 250 euros. When the iPhone goes on sale in Asia next year, even more markets will open up and the possibility for price differences increases. Apple’s goal is to sell ten million handsets by the end of next year, so I suppose they don’t care too much. But with unlocked iPhones being sold at cheaper and cheaper prices, it will be hard for Apple to keep Americans locked into AT&T. I can see smugglers legally selling unlocked iPhones in North America and elsewhere.