When Apple made its official announcement that Orange would be the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in France, many wondered what would become of the French law that required unlocked versions to be made available within six months. Apple conveniently left that tiny detail out of its announcement that the iPhone would go on sale in the country as of November 29, but nobody had forgotten.
Now, it turns out that Orange will indeed sell unlocked iPhones alongside locked versions. Orange spokesperson Béatrice Mandrine told the International Herald Tribune that while the locked iPhones would go for €399, unlocked phones would cost a premium. She didn't elaborate on how much that would be, but said that more details would be available in November.
Also available in November will be details regarding the length of the contract required for the €399 version of the iPhone. While pricey, this mirrors the structure that most of us are used to in the US: a subsidized handset with a contract requirement, or an unlocked phone (usually from a third party) with no contract. Mandrine didn't elaborate as to whether the unlocked version would be available immediately, but it's reasonable to assume that it won't be. Instead, it'll probably be available in May or June of 2008, at which time a new iPhone version may already be out and locked… for another 6 months. We'll keep our eyes and ears open to see what will happen.
Update: Once again, Apple and Orange appear to be at odds (this is becoming a very predictable pattern) over the unlocked iPhones. Apple has told Gizmodo that the above comments were merely citing French law, and not Orange's official intentions. Of course, an Orange spokesperson specifically told IHT that the company did intend to do so, but hey. Details, details.