Apple (AAPL) iPhone: Will Free U.K. Wi-Fi Make Up For No 3G?


As anticipated, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in the U.K. today with an exclusive carrier partner: O2, a unit of Spain’s Telefonica. Apple’s (AAPL) phone won’t run on O2’s fastest, “3G” data network; as in the U.S., on-the-go Web browsing, email, and other apps like Google Maps and YouTube will instead go through the carrier’s slower, “EDGE” network.

The iPhone’s slow data connection has not won many fans, and many rival smartphones connect to 3G networks. That includes most of the high-end O2 phones Jobs’ £269 (~$540) iPhone will compete with: Nokia’s N95, Motorola’s Z8, O2’s Xda Trion smartphone, Sony Ericssons’s P1i, and Palm’s Treo 750 are all 3G phones. The exceptions: mostly RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry devices. “Europe is primarily a 3G marketplace,” Motorola (MOT) COO Greg Brown said in July; a limited 3G line has contributed to Motorola’s post-Razr meltdown.

Jobs said that Apple chose not to include 3G features because the faster network connection uses more battery power. (The iPhone battery can’t be removed.) Instead, O2’s service plans will include free, all-you-can-eat access to the U.K.’s largest public wi-fi network, with more than 7,500 hotspots. Will it be enough?

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