Vodafone to start selling the iPhone in U.K. and Ireland

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Vodafone will start selling the Apple iPhone in U.K. and Ireland early next year, it said Tuesday.

The announcement comes a day after Orange announced it will start selling the iPhone in the U.K. later this year. Just like Orange, Vodafone is keeping the details of the launch under wraps. More information on pricing, tariffs and availability dates will be released in due course, Vodafone said.

On September 24 Vodafone announced 360, a suite of services that includes a connected address book that integrates with online services such as Facebook and Windows Live Messenger, but it's too early to say if it will be available on the iPhone, according to a Vodafone spokesman.

Vodafone 360 will first be available on phones from Samsung and Nokia, but in the coming months the operator will be making the service available on as many handsets and operating systems as possible, Vodafone said at the time of the 360 launch.

The expanded distribution in the U.K. will result in a nice bump in iPhone sales for Apple, according to Gartner research director Carolina Milanesi. Apple sold 5.4 million iPhones during the second quarter, Gartner said.

For O2, which has enjoyed exclusive rights to sell Apple's phones in the U.K. for almost two years, it means even more competition, although it has another exclusive deal up its sleeve: On October 16 it will start selling the Palm Pre in the U.K.

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