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Orange France to offer unlocked iPhones - kind of.

Well, despite all the publicity (opens in new tab) last week, I didn't see hordes of iPhone purchasers besieging any retail stores as I trudged around our shopping mall on Friday evening.

Chatting with staff at one O2 store confirms my initial thoughts that the price of the iPhone in the UK - which is locked, as I thought - coupled with the silly 18 month contracts (opens in new tab)being bundled with the handset, is putting people off.

There have been some reports over the weekend advising punters to buy an unlocked iPhone from France Telecom when Orange France offers the handset at the end of this month.

French telecoms law, you see, states that all mobile phones must be offered to customers unlocked, allowing them to use their handset on any French network.

However, a little bird tells me that Orange and Apple are planning to release the iPhone in France on a semi-locked basis. The handset will work with any French network, but not on any other country networks.

Clever huh? Apparently the law is somewhat grey on this issue. By the book, the handset must work on any French mobile network and, in the above example, it does just that.

Just to put the icing on the cake, I gather that Orange France shops will be looking for French citizen IDs before they are willing to sell an iPhone to a punter.

That will stop UK entrepreneurs from hopping on the new Eurostar service from St. Pancras (opens in new tab) and buying up hordes of mobiles for later sale back in the UK.

Of course, it remains to be seen what actually happens when the iPhone goes on sale on France on November 29, but I don't think Apple is going to make it easy for non-French peeps to get their paws on a totally unlocked iPhone...