Originally Posted by RonAnnArbor
Just as a heads up -- in the US, you had to activate your iPhone ONLY with the area code in which you lived -- you could activate it, say, in NYC while on vacation (like I did on day 1) but you have no choice as to the area code with which you can activate it - it must be your home area code assigned by your cellphone carrier by location in which you reside and where you receive your bills.
I assume they will use the same arrangement in the EU. As to what happens after the term is over? (In the US it's two years, who knows how long in the EU) you have the option of extending your contract of course -- it will keep working as long as you stay with that carrier no matter what phone you use.
It's not really specific to the iPhone -- look at the EU contracts for smartphones and blackberries, many of which have also been locked to providers for many years now (as my French Orange blackberry can attest, which sits nicely in the closet until my next trip to Paris)
The iPhone is considered a smartphone/PDA phone...as such, they can skirt around some of the "unlocking" laws for standard cellphones, just like they have for other smartphones. There is already precedent.
I am afraid you are quite incorrect here, there is no differentiation made between smart phones and normal phones at all. It is perfectly legal to sell any phone locked to a network in Europe, Orange in the UK have always had their handsets locked to their network, 3 also have a locked handset system in place. The only country in the EU that has made it illegal to sell network locked phones is Belgium.
What the law says however and this is where the rules differ greatly with the US is that every operator must allow their customers phone to be unlocked if asked. They are allowed to charge a fee but they have to unlock or allow the phone to be unlocked. This is the same for PDA's and smart-phones. So in the UK at least selling a locked phone is perfectly legal, selling a phone that cannot be unlocked is not.
So in Europe the network operators get around this by giving away the handsets for nothing or in some cases selling the handsets at a greatly reduced price. The real cost of the handset is subsidised by the network and repaid as part of the monthly commitment, so in reality you are bound by your contract length because you have not paid for the goods until you have completed your contract, usually 1 year but nowadays 2 years is common.
So this to me has to point to a different pricing model in Europe for the iPhone, i cannot see how Apple will sign a network willing to work to the same model as the US, there is nothing in it for the network at all. You could easily buy an iPhone and sign up for a contract with the network but then unlock your iphone and use it where you want, the network may hold you to the contract but if you stop paying they cannot take the phone from you, realistically you are looking at being chased by debt collectors and taken to court but if you have not used the service i am not sure whether you can really be forced to pay for it, contract or no contract. The whole thing would be a mess that no operator surely will want to be involved in.
So you heard it here first folks, the iPhone in Europe might well be free!