Mobility

SIM-Free Deals Vanish, As O2 Sets Palm Pre Launch Date

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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Contract-free deals for the Palm Pre have disappeared as O2 gears up for a 16 October exclusive launch for the phone

O2 will have the Palm Pre smartphone in its shops on 16 October – and meanwhile, sites offering to sell it without a SIM card or contract have quietly pulled their deals.

Palm Pre is free to customers taking out a 24-month contract with O2; or to customers taking a 24-month or 18-month contract, it will cost £44.05 or £73.41 per month, respectively.Those willing to pay £96.89 for the phone can get it for £29.38 a month, and all customers get unlimited data

Sites had been taking pre-orders for SIM-free Pre phones for around £400, but these offers quietly disappeared, following warnings from a Palm spokesman reported here. The Handtec and mPhone sites had been taking orders, but no longer list the Pre at all, while Expansys and Play.com still list the phone but with no pricing or order information.

O2’s launch date is slightly sooner than predicted, perhaps to avoid overlap with other tech news stories such as Microsoft’s launch of Windows 7 and relaunch of Windows Mobile.

The Palm Pre will come with a normal charger. Those wanting the inductive wireless Touchstone charger will have to pay an extra £44.11 to get the Touchstone and a special replacement back for their Pre.

The phone has had good reviews, despite concerns that businesses would shun a device that uses a proprietary operating system and is only available from one vendor (that is not Apple), O2 is aiming the phone at businesses people, offering it as a bolt-on to existing business contracts and issuing releases that emphasise benefits such as sharable minutes and multiuser billing, as well as unlimited calls to O2 customers and free, 24/7 access to business customer care specialists.

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“There’s a lot of excitement about Palm Pre in Europe as we continue to expand Palm webOS products across new carriers and countries,” said Jon Rubinstein chairman and CEO of Palm. “We look forward to launching Palm Pre with O2 so people in the U.K. can see firsthand how Palm webOS offers a new and better smartphone experience.”

The Pre is Palm’s first phone based on the company’s webOS software, which brings mobile applications together in an intuitive multitasking platform. Palm webOS also introduces Palm Synergy, which brings users’ information from the many places it resides into a single view of their lives.

Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefonica O2 UK, said today’s announcement reinforces O2’s position as the home of the smartphone. “With the addition of the excellent Palm Pre to our already extensive portfolio, we will continue to offer our customers the widest range of the very best devices on the market today,” he said.

Nathan Eddy contributed to this story.