Mystery still surrounds unlocked iPhones from UK's Play.com

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from Macworld UK. Visit Macworld U.K.’s blog page for the latest Mac news from across the Atlantic.

O2, Apple’s official mobile partner in the UK, has confirmed it still has exclusivity, along with the Carphone Warehouse, to sell the iPhone here.

The confirmation comes following news that Play.com, the online retailer best known for a range of DVDs, CDs, books and games, had started selling Sim-free contract free iPhones earlier this week.

“O2, Apple and Carphone Warehouse have exclusive rights to distribute the iPhone in the UK. The iPhone 3G is available from O2 on Pay&Go from £342.33 [$498] and from free on Pay Monthly with an 18-month or longer minimum term contract,” an O2 spokesperson told technology Web site TechRadar.

The O2 spokesperson added that anyone buying a Sim-free iPhone in the UK may find a distinct lack of usability including limited Internet access.

“O2 offers iPhone customers a full service which includes unlimited UK data downloads and unlimited Wi-Fi access, visual voicemail, and a range of other benefits, which you may not get from an unlocked handset.”

Play currently offers 8GB and 16GB versions of the iPhone, priced at £549.99 and £599.99 respectively.

The company told gadget Web site T3 that the Sim-free deal comes backed with a warranty, and is available to use on all networks, rather than being unlocked from a network.

A Play spokesperson told T3 the deal “is available due to EU legislation ensuring the sale of Sim-free mobile phones” and “comes with a full manufacturer warranty,” adding that “the standard Play.com returns policy would apply to this product.”

The spokesperson however failed to say where exactly the online retailer is getting the iPhones or indeed how many they have sold other than to say “orders are growing nicely.”

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