Is O2 Scared of iPhone 3g?

Talking to various people over the last few weeks has unveiled a trend.  O2, the UK supplier of iPhone 3g, may be a little worried about the launch.  Unfortunately it looks as if O2 simply aren’t geared up for the potential hit they have on their hands.  And this isn’t just hearsay and conjecture, there’s definitely something odd going on.  So let’s look at the evidence.

Marketing

Prior to the original iPhone launch there were TV adverts, magazine adverts, email campaigns, online adverts and huge posters up in all the O2 shops.  This time round, just a week before launch, there’s nothing.  I’ve even signed up to the “Let me know more details” official O2 email list, and I’ve had one email.  Just one.  walk into an O2 shop and there’s very little mention of it at all.  I’ve not seen any TV adverts, or magazine/paper adverts.  You’d think they’re trying to keep it quiet.

Restricted Supply

There have been reports of restricted supply of iPhone 3g into the UK, reportedly because of the high proportion of original iPhones that ended up jail broken.  There’s not a whole lot of evidence for this, but when combined with the other indicators, it does add up.  And, for the record, I’m not sure why people would want to jail break their UK iPhone anyway.  I used to be a long time O2 customer before Orange offered me a better deal.  And let me tell you, the grass isn’t greener, and as much as I’m looking forward to getting an iPhone 3g, I’m also looking forward to going back to O2.

The counter to this argument is that Apple need to push huge volumes of the new iPhone to make any decent profit.  They are no longer getting cuts from the operators and I would guess the margins are well down based on the increased technology in the phone and the decreased POS price.  There’s also the fact that Apple’s stock price hinges on this launch being a success.  Given the unstable economy, Apple, and all the other tech companies, need wins.

Upgrades

You can read as much into this as you want, but O2 representatives have been really pushing hard to stop people going over to iPhone 3g.  It’s not unusual for a phone company to call you up towards the end of your contract and offer you a free upgrade.  In fact, I’ve already had Orange calling me up offering me all sorts of incentives to stay with them (even if you’re not after an iPhone 3g, just mention it to your current carrier around the end of your contract and they’ll bend over backwards for you).  What O2 are doing though, is slightly different.  I’ve had reports from O2 customers saying they’ve been called by someone offering them a free upgrade.  Fair enough.  It gets strange, however, when they say they’re waiting for the new iPhone.  At this point the O2 representative will try their best to put you off.  Reduced contract rates, free and hugely reduced handset costs and claims that better handsets are available, specifically the Samsung “Soul” and the Nokia N95 Black.  Now it’s likely that these people are on commission, and want to make the sale, but i can’t believe O2 would let them so openly critiscise another O2 offering, especially such a high profile one.  I would guess that there’s some sort of corporate strategy to “manage” demand.

So…

There are, let’s face it, perfectly reasonable explanations for the above.  But this is a blog and it lives in internetland.  So, there’s going to be 50 iPhone 3gs in the UK, and O2 won’t sell them to you.  Problem solved.

Have you experienced one of these negative sales calls from O2?  Or are you awash in a vacumn of non-publicity?

Update 07/07/08: O2 put iPhone 3g up for preorder at 8AM this morning.  It was available sporadically for three hours or so before selling out.  It’s a similar story over at the Carphone Warehouse, the only other place you can buy the phone officially in the UK, where it is completely sold out.  Also worth noting is that the White iPhone is nowhere to be seen, only black versions.

O2 are saying to check back on Thursday (10th), although it’s unlikely they’ll be able to deliver for the 11th, which they were promising for orders made today, while Carphone Warehouse says check back on the 11th.