updated 06:30 pm EST, Fri November 20, 2009
iPhone non-exclusive helps Apple, hurts RIM
The elimination of the iPhone's exclusivity to Orange in France has resulted in "more than double" the sales of the device and dealt a blow to the BlackBerry, according to research notes issued recently. Estimates from Bernstein, Strategy Analytics and others report twice as many iPhones being shipped in the summer quarter as in the spring due specifically to Apple's handset being readily available at Bouygues Telecom as well as SFR. That added exposure is thought to have directly impacted RIM as customers at the new carriers had a new, major alternative to the BlackBerry line.
Absolute market share has reportedly borne this out as a Morgan Stanley note claims that Apple's influence grew 17 percent between the two seasons. Gartner believes that as many as 600,000 iPhones sold in France during the quarter, making it the single largest market for iPhones in all of Europe.
While the iPhone 3GS had its first full quarter of sales in the period and likely spurred on at least some of the gain, a non-exclusive deal is considered important as, like the UK, the French market is relatively fragmented and doesn't leave any one carrier with a commanding influence. Adding extra carriers as a result may translate directly to more exposure and more sales.
France's precedent has potentially mirrored itself in the recent end to O2's exclusivity in the UK, as Orange recorded breakthrough first-day sales and has strong expectations for the future that may be helped by T-Mobile UK's tentative merger with Orange. Vodafone UK plans to carry the iPhone in early 2010 and, at that point, should put the majority of British cellular subscribers on a network that offers the iPhone.
Canada has also recently ended exclusivity, albeit through the addition of new networks rather than contracts or legal action. AT&T's exclusivity is rumored to end in mid-2010 but has never been confirmed.
RIM's advantage over Apple in smartphones risks being canceled out by the iPhone's expansion. Recent strong BlackBerry sales have been helped primarily by the sheer number of carriers that use its devices, as all major North American carriers, many European carriers and others abroad all carry at least some of its lineup.