THE much-hyped Apple iPhone is officially on the way, nine months after it was launched in the US, four months after it launched in Britain, and costing more here than anywhere else.
Mobile giant O2 confirmed yesterday that the first of the iPhones, which combine a phone with a widescreen iPod music player and an internet browser, will go on sale in Ireland on March 14.
But Irish consumers will have to make a significant financial commitment if they want to own the latest must-have gadget. As well as paying out between €399 and €499 for the iPhone itself, depending on the storage capacity, they will also have to sign up to an 18-month contract with o2 costing at least €45 per month.
It means the cheapest iPhone will set you back €1,209 over the next year and a half.
"You can't compare it with other products," Danuta Gray, O2 Ireland CEO said yesterday. "Comparing it with a standard handset is just not like-for-like. I have music on it, videos on it, DVDs, photo albums, camera.
"To me it's just an amazing device and I think the type of price here compared with this type of functionality is where the value should be judged."
The device, which plays videos and music and sends email, as well as having an impressive touch-screen navigation system, will be sold in an 8GB and 16GB version here. The 16GB version will cost €499, compared with approximately €430 in Britain and €370 in the US, as of yesterday's exchange rates.
However, despite the price tag, O2 is confident that the queues seen in the US last June and in Britain last November will be replicated here.
"I'd say your Apple freaks will be queuing out the door when we launch," Ms Gray said.
"I think people are familiar with what the product is but I think there's an excitement that they can now get it in Ireland," she added.
Ms Gray said that the company was confident that criticism in the US of internet loading times would not be heard here despite the phone running on an aging EDGE system, which is slower than mobile broadband.
O2 said that Irish people who had imported iPhones and 'hacked' past security would not receive an amnesty.
"We won't accept unlocked phones," Ms Gray said.
The iPhone features
The device features a mobile phone, a 3.5-inch screen iPod and a web browser.
- The iPhone features a touch-sensitive interface that allows users to watch videos, access their e-mails and the internet as well as listen to their music.
- The iPhone provides up to seven hours of video play time, six hours of internet usage and eight hours of talk time.
- The phone, which will work all over the world, has the same docking station as the iPod, meaning that many of the accessories for iPod will be compatible with the iPhone.