IMHO: iPhone deal puts Orange back on the map

IMHO: iPhone deal puts Orange back on the map Today Orange announced that it will start selling iPhone 3G and 3G S in the UK later this year, ending O

Today Orange announced that it will start selling iPhone 3G and 3G S in the UK later this year, ending O2's exclusive deal. It's a great day for iPhone users who have been unimpressed by O2's patchy 3G network.

It's also a great day for Orange, which seems to have finally plotted a course out of the gadget wilderness.

It's hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong for Orange, but I put it somewhere in between making terribly annoying cinema ads and refusing to offer all-you-can-eat 3G access. But just as important was O2's rebranding, its music venue sponsorship, and its snagging of the iPhone exclusive - which made it network of choice for the yoof (or at least the ageing 'middle youth' who don't think twice about splurging £45 a month on a mobile contract.)

Not that Orange has disappeared. It's quietly built the best 3G network in the UK - just compare OFCOM's 3G maps for O2 and Orange (NB this link is a PDF download).

Of course, a 3G connection is more important to iPhone users than most, because the internet is so central to the iPhone experience - whether you're checking email, browsing or just downloading another app you'll never use.

Now, with the iPhone to hook up to its network, and a merger with T-Mobile on the cards, Orange looks set to leapfrog O2.

Size isn't everything, of course. Fortunately, Orange still has enough of that Videophone DNA left to satisfy those avant-gadgeteers concerned by the iPhone's tedious ubiquity. Fancy something different? Try the iPhone's best rival, the graphite HTC Hero - or the ridiculously cool (or simply ridiculous?) LG GD910 watchphone. Both Orange exclusives (of sorts) - and proof that Apples aren't the only fruit.