Pricing row believed to be behind chaotic iPhone4 launch

Vodafone's head office may have intervened

An eleventh-hour pricing spat between Vodafone and Apple is understood to be behind the iPhone 4's shambolic New Zealand launch.

Apple advised Vodafone to change pricing for the iPhone 4 shortly before it was due to hit shop shelves, but an angry Vodafone threatened to can the launch entirely, according to a source.

It is understood Vodafone's head office in Britain then intervened, demanding its local subsidiary proceed. Vodafone spokesman Matt East says he cannot confirm or deny the claim, while Apple did not return calls from The Dominion Post.

iPhone enthusiasts queued outside Vodafone stores from early morning on the launch day, only to be told the gadget's debut was off.

Vodafone then announced it would be available from midday, but only to those customers prepared to sign a 24-month contract.

The first shipment of iPhones, estimated by some to be 5000, sold out within a few hours, but Mr East says Vodafone has since restocked.

Comments from members of online technology forum Geekzone indicate the gadget, which has video-calling, a higher-resolution camera and a better display – has been worth the hassle. "The screen is that sharp it does not look real," said one member. "This thing is damn fast, especially with multitasking – pretty much instantaneous," said another.

Others have commented on the "impressive" 5 megapixel camera and the "antenna-gate" problem, which marred the iPhone's debut: "Death Grip exists, got it down to 1 bar and no 3G within about 5 seconds, [but] got a case, no problems now."

Apple received complaints of widespread antenna and reception issues – caused by users holding the device with their left hand which accidentally muffled the built-in antenna – after its launch in the United States in June.

British firm PA Consulting Group says tests of the iPhone 4 found its connectivity is in the lower end of the range for smartphones and when used with the "death grip" is significantly worse than other smartphones.

Apple originally denied the problem but was later forced to address the issue with free "bumper" cases. New Zealand customers must apply to Apple for the cases.

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