3G Stores at crossroads over iPhone

31 Jan 2008

While nobody outside the inner circle of Apple knows when the iPhone will arrive on Irish shores, one thing is for sure: Apple re-seller 3G Stores will not be stocking the handset if the phone does not go with its partners 3 or Meteor out of the four Irish mobile operators.

3G would not realistically consider selling the iPhone if the device is partnered with O2 or Vodafone, said CEO Tony Boyle: “The real capability and functionality of the iPhone comes when you are linked with the operator.”

“We will cross that path when we come to it because it is a product we would be very supportive of,” he added.

One thing to bear in mind, said Boyle, is that unless the right operator gets it, the iPhone might not necessarily be a huge success because, “if you market it only as a phone, it is not going to work.”

However, Boyle said that Apple will play “a very fundamental part” in 3G Stores this year: “What we’re trying to do differently is to be at the forefront of the convergence of mobile and entertainment and we think Apple is one of the leading players in that space.”

“The key thing is not just connectivity but what it is delivering to you and Apple has very successfully cracked the music area and the deal announced for iTunes is also very significant for movie downloads and rental,” he commented.

Boyle, who was the only Irish person to be invited to the Macworld event in San Francisco in January, said that while some may have felt there were no ‘mind blowing’ announcements, it is difficult to trump a device like the iPhone.

“At the same time, the MacBook Air is a tremendous breakthrough in terms of miniaturisation,” he observes, adding that there is already a waiting list for the ultra-thin, lightweight notebook in 3G Stores.

Speaking on the broadband issue in Ireland and the existing digital divide here, Boyle said that while in San Francisco at the Macworld event he noticed that Ireland is not alone: Barrack Obama was talking about broadband availability for all as one of the key US initiatives.

“I was gobsmacked that Obama was talking about this but to put it in perspective he was saying there are 1.4 million people in the US who do not have broadband, so while it is a scale issue, it gave me some confidence that Ireland is not on its own.

“Broadband is still an issue on the agenda of the presidential candidates of the biggest economy and powerhouse in the world,” added Boyle.

By Marie Boran