T-Mobile UK leads race to secure iPhone exclusivity

While Cingular is no doubt rubbing its hands together at the thought of all those Apple-hungry cellphone buyers waving cash at them and demanding to sign lengthy contracts come iPhone day (rumoured to be June 15th), over here in the UK there's a fierce fight still being waged between networks to see who will capture the exclusive rights.

The British attitude to cellphones is an increasingly mature and demanding one; gone are the days when a so-called premium cellphone could command a premium price.  Now it's usual for even the most advanced handset to be given away free with a new contract, heavily subsidised by operators frightful of the market reaching saturation point.

How this will effect iPhone pricing is yet to be seen; as the thorny issue of potential subsidies is discussed for the US market, given the modus operandi over here it's hard to imagine even such a hotly anticipated cellphone keeping above "giveaway" in the months after launch.  Marketing Week reports [via] that so far T-Mobile UK appears to be leading negotiations to secure distribution rights, with analysts pointing to the network's work in mobile music as a leverage point to the iTunes-toting Apple.

Given Apple's obvious reluctance to reduce their profit margins, there seems to be a potentially dangerous gap between what Cupertino expects to receive for each iPhone and what customers are willing to pay.  It'll be interesting to see what business model whichever operator wins the contract adopts, in order to minimise the risk of filling that gap from their own back pocket.

Previous SlashGear iPhone coverage