The supermarket has not revealed its prices but a promise to bring 'value' to the mobile phone market could see customers offered a better deal than with current suppliers O2 and Orange
Apple iPhone 3GS. Photograph: Tim Chong/Reuters
Tesco plans to have the Apple iPhone in shops in time for Christmas and has promised to bring "a bit of value" to the mobile phone market.
Although the supermarket declined today to say exactly what it would charge, its value promise raises the prospect of consumers being offered a better deal than with the current suppliers, O2 and Orange.
Britain's biggest retailer, which already has two million mobile phone customers, will be selling the Apple device through its network of more than 80 in-store phone shops and on its website.
It will sell the iPhone 3G and 3GS to pay-as-you-go customers and people willing to take out a long-term contract. Tesco said: "We really want to bring a bit of Tesco value to the iPhone. We are not just going to copy what's already out there."
Orange started selling the iPhone earlier this month, ending O2's two-year long exclusive grip on the handset, but its pricing is barely distinguishable from the tariffs already on offer, with both networks pricing the basic phone from £34 a month over two years.
In contrast, Tesco has a sim card-only contract that offers customers unlimited calls, texts and mobile internet browsing for £30 a month. The supermarket group, which takes one in every seven pounds spent on the British high street, refused to say whether this would be the basis for its iPhone tariff.
Vodafone, meanwhile, will not be able to start selling the iPhone to its customers until the second week of January. The smallest of the UK's five networks, 3, is also hoping to start selling the iPhone some time next year.
O2 sells the basic iPhone 3G – which has 8GB of memory and a 2 megapixel camera – starting at £34.26 a month for two years. The price includes 600 minutes of call time and 500 texts.
The 16GB version of the iPhone 3GS – which has a 3 megapixel camera and a faster processor – is free on O2 at £44.05 a month for two years, with 1,200 minutes and 500 texts, and the largest 32GB version is free at £73.41 a month for two years with 3,000 minutes and 500 texts.
Orange, in contrast, offers the basic 3G phone for free under a two-year contract at £29.36 a month, but that comes with just 150 minutes and 250 texts. On the same tariff plan as O2 – 600 minutes and 500 texts – the 3G phone is free at £34.26 a month over two years.
On a comparable call plan, therefore, there is no difference between the price of the iPhone 3G on Orange and O2.
Orange makes the 16GB version of the iPhone 3GS free at £44.04 a month for two years. That includes 1,200 minutes and 500 texts, exactly the same call plan as O2. So the difference in price between O2 and Orange on the 16GB version of the iPhone 3GS is a mere 24p over two years.
Orange is giving the iPhone 3GS 32GB away free to customers willing to sign up for a two-year contract at £73.40 a month. That comes with 3,000 minutes and 500 texts, again exactly the same call plan as O2. So the difference in price between O2 and Orange on the 32GB version of the iPhone 3GS is, again 24p over two years.