French iPhone carrier Orange might have an upgrade plan in the works when Apple ships the next generation of the iPhone.
Anyone with a pulse and even a passing interest in consumer electronics knows that the 3G iPhone is perhaps weeks away from making its debut, probably at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 9. Those with longer memories will recall the outcry over Apple's decision to cut the price of the iPhone by $200 in September, forcing the company to issue $100 credits to iPhone early adopters to stem the criticism.
Perhaps this time around, Apple and its carrier partners are hoping to prevent similar bellyaching from current iPhone owners who might suddenly realize in late June that their iPhone isn't as cool as it used to be.
It would be somewhat surprising if Orange were choosing to publicly discuss a next-generation iPhone with its customers, but if true, it could shed light on how Apple plans to hit its iPhone targets for 2008. PC Inpact says Orange customers are being given two options: they can return their current iPhone and pay 50 euros for the new version, or they can keep their current version and buy a new one at a "heavily subsidized" price, presumably with a fresh contract attached.
If Apple and its partners can get even half of the estimated 5 million iPhone owners to upgrade to the new model, it will be much easier for the company to hit its 2008 goal of 10 million shipments. Sales are expected to increase based on the wider distribution of the iPhone in the coming weeks around the world, as well as those who were holding out for a faster model. Inducing as many current owners to upgrade as possible would provide a nice boost.
However, this offer might be an only-in-France type of deal, assuming that it's even true. European iPhone sales have not been as strong as U.S. sales, and Apple's partners might be trying additional demand-goosing methods that might not be available to stateside owners.