O2 left out of UK N97 launch

Telefónica’s British operation O2 will be the only carrier not to offer Nokia’s new flagship the N97 when it launches in the UK on June 19th.

While the Carphone Warehouse will be selling the handset with contracts to O2’s network, the N97 will not be available in O2’s stores, or from its online shop.

Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and 3UK will all be offering the handset, which Nokia will sell SIM free for £499. The N97 will be the first Nokia handset to launch with one-touch access to the Finnish vendor’s app store, the  Ovi Store, which launched last month.

An O2 UK spokesperson effectively ruled out any chance that the firm would sell the handset. “We have no plans to sell the Nokia N97 through our direct channels,” she said, adding: “We offer a range of handsets through our product portfolio, which is regularly reviewed to meet the demands of our customers.

Nokia, meanwhile, refused to comment on why the largest carrier in the UK will not be stocking what is arguably its most important new product since the iPhone shook up the high end handset market two years ago.

Analysts have speculated that it is the iPhone – and specifically O2 UK’s exclusive distributor status for the Apple product – which has led to the carrier’s exclusion from the N97 launch. Dave McQueen, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said it was believed that O2 had exhausted its subsidy budget with the costly iPhone and had been unable to offer the N96, when that launched, as a result.

The current situation could simply be a continuation of that problem, he said, given O2’s ongoing commitment to the iPhone and the carrier’s reliance on the product for driving its consumer data traffic. iPhone users are renowned as far more data-hungry than users of other handsets. “In addition, it is very likely that O2 can’t commit to marketing budget for N97 as they are likely to have to co-market the iPhone in June / July, most probably when  a new iPhone comes out,” McQueen said.

Alternatively, this latest development could be decision taken by a disgruntled Nokia based on O2’s decision not to offer the N96.

Tony Cripps, a handset market analyst at Ovum suggested that Nokia might be concerned at how much fanfare O2 would be able to give the N97 in its marketing strategy. “Perhaps Nokia thinks that going through O2 with what will be its flagship handset for some time may not get it the attention it thinks the phone deserves,” he said. He added that a good deal of the prospective market for a high end smartphone like the N97 among O2 users would already be iPhone users.

Nonetheless, O2 will doubtless have a substantial number of Nokia loyalists on its customer books and it may run the risk of losing those to competitors who want the latest product from the Finnish market leader.


  1. Avatar iPhone App Developer 02/06/2009 @ 2:06 pm

    I’m not sure the N97 is going to shine when put next to iPhone, Goog Android and Blackberry…
    It’s an interesting time for Nokia and in the past they’ve put so much software into some of their phones they ceased to work effectively – hope they haven’t done that this time…

    • Avatar James Middleton 02/06/2009 @ 4:18 pm

      Hi Andy,
      O2 UK may well sell the N96 now, but it didn’t when the handset first launched in the UK – as we said in the article.
      Also, I see that O2 is not exactly subsidising the device – the only way you can get it for free is by forking out £68 per month for 24 months, or £73 per month for 18 months.

  2. Avatar Woody 02/06/2009 @ 7:18 pm

    I’m an O2 customer who was seriously looking forward to the N97. Now I’ve got to decide whether to leave O2 or buy an N97 sim free. Think I’ll leave O2. Poor choice, guys.

    • Avatar Matt 24/06/2009 @ 10:39 pm

      I am also on O2 and want the N97, apparently you can change your contract you have with them to a pay as you go, then request a PAC code enabling you to keep the same number going via an external company. Not the ideal situation but it does let you stay with O2 and keep your number.

  3. Avatar ActionParsnip 02/06/2009 @ 11:44 pm

    why do all phones always get compared to the iphone. Its been out so long and there have been new innovations since then in newer phones but we always hark back. Its like all mp3 players being compared to ipods. Ipods have so little functionality its hilarious. I wish reviwers would take their noses out of aples ass, there stuff has been supassed

  4. Avatar maddy 04/06/2009 @ 2:50 am

    Even I’m one of an O2 customer who is desperately waiting for N97. if O2 doesn’t release N97 for customers like us,well I’m planning to quit O2 and go for N97 contract phone with other network which gives best offer.

  5. Avatar A.Newton 04/06/2009 @ 9:27 am

    Here’s another o2 customer thats not happy with the way we have all been strung along by o2 , yes we will be stocking the n97 no we wont ! Realise that everyone who has waited will now leave and hopefully someone’s head will roll for this huge mistake by a company with its head buried in the sand , instead of leading and been cutting edge or simply giving people what they want blind everyone with the other huge offerings of dull handsets that lack inspiration and something different like the n97 ! They dont and wont stock certain top end samsung either or blackberry ! Get with it o2 or you might be left behind or should i say you have been ?

  6. Avatar David Coveney 04/06/2009 @ 4:04 pm

    While I understand folk wanting to leave O2 over this, think about whether they might actually be doing you a favour:

    An O2 Sim Only deal, with lots of minutes and ‘unlimited’ data as the first free bolt-on is just £20 a month. Assuming that, with a bit of care, you can buy an N97 for £400 Sim Free that’s equivalent to a little under the £45 per month tariffs with a free phone.

    Even better, your phone will be unbranded, unlocked, easy to mod, and you’ll not be tied in to a contract that, in 18 months time, would probably look rather expensive.

    I suspect the only network locked phones you’ll see in a few years are exclusive deals, for example the iPhone with O2, which are designed to try and draw in and lock in customers.

  7. Avatar Darren 06/06/2009 @ 12:26 am

    The key to this is that O2 are not selling the N97 through DIRECT channels. If you do some more reading on the net you will find that you will be able to get the N97 on O2 via The Carphone Warehouse.

  8. Avatar Sal 06/06/2009 @ 7:46 pm

    Just a little FYI for everyone,
    Been doing some research on this phone for the last 6 months, so now that its almost out I’m totally psyched…

    2 Things:

    O2 will not stock this product directly, however will be available from carphonewarehouse or etc., so, thats alright news.

    The 2nd thing, is that after doing some research, I’ve found out that the hardware for the N97 will be slower than most of its competitors, infact it might be the slowest. In one video review it crashed many times.

    I love the N97, and just wish it was more powerful, however, I can’t get a phone, that will only slow me done.

  9. Avatar Lister2020 08/06/2009 @ 1:37 pm

    Go look at videos of the final firmware, it runs perfectly fine.

    I’ve already cancelled both of my o2 contracts, I’ll be off to another network.

  10. Avatar tch 12/06/2009 @ 11:34 am

    This is a real shame, I think when they look back o2 are going to really regret going for the iphone.

    heavy data users are expensive for networks, but I guess the massive markup on iphone’s make it worth it (they only cost around £50 to build from the component costs).

    I’m torn, I’ve been with o2 for 9 years, I don’t particularly want to leave, but I want the n97. Hmmm, maybe I can negotiate a cheaper contract and make buying one sim free worth it.

  11. Avatar embarkell 23/06/2009 @ 9:59 pm

    I’m in the same boat as many others. I’ve been a loyal “Select” O2 customer for many years. I’ve currently 4 handsets on my contract. If I can’t get a N97 from them direct then I’ll seriously have to consider a new provider. I don’t want an iPhone and have postponed my upgrades since Sept last year whilst I waited for this phone.

    The mixed messages on various forums generates confusion. Not a happy bunny with what for me has been the best Mobile provider for years.

  12. Avatar michael booth 24/06/2009 @ 5:16 pm

    i think o2 have made a massive mistake not stocking the n97 ye ok they have the iphone but its so restricted and low tech ? I MEAN WHO WANTS A 2 OR 3 MEGAPIXEL CAMERA and the fact you cant recieve picture text is just stupid. i love my nokias and as soon as my contract is up i will be leaving 02

  13. Avatar Tara 26/06/2009 @ 1:28 pm

    I had a lady from the CPW phone me today, as I reserved my N97 on Wednesday to purchase today (Friday 260609), to tell me that they can only suppy me with an ORANGE tariff as it wont be on O2.

    So maybe Carphone Warehouse wont be providing the N97 on O2 afterall.

  14. Avatar Lister2020 28/06/2009 @ 9:27 pm

    As I expected it’s not available even through CPW.

    I went with T-Mobile. 18 month contract 35 a month for 700 mins unlimited txts unlimited internet.

    Haven’t regretted it at all.

  15. Avatar Raj 16/07/2009 @ 10:14 am

    I want the N97 on O2 and having spoken to O2 directly I’ve been told its available though the carphonewarehouse as an upgrade. the problem is the O2 tarrifs offered at CPW are franchised from O2 therefore you are leaving O2 to join CPW and should you return to O2 after your contract at CPW expires u loose all loyalty and are treated as a new customer. thats my 10 years of loyalty wasted then. Im planning to swith to Simplicity with O2 and buy the N97 on O2 pay as you go but it costs £540. I was Hoping that means I can get the phone on a 6-12 month contract with a reasonable cost but it still looks realy expensive.

  16. Avatar Dave 16/07/2009 @ 5:39 pm

    Just like many people who’ve commented here, Im thinking about leaving O2 after having been with them on pay as you go and the last 17 months contract. They obviously really have no idea just how big this release is and how many people already have an iPod Touch (like myself) and don’t need an iPhone!

    Nokia have been providing all the functions and more that the new iPhone 3GS has, for quite some time now, certainly longer than the iPhone itself has been available.

    Plus iTunes software isnt exactly known for great compatibility on certain computers and OS’s (XP for example) so many users would have a hard time getting their music/movies onto the handset.

    Big mistake O2, big mistake guys! Im going to Vodafone as I’ve already got my broadband with them!

  17. Avatar Imran 07/08/2009 @ 12:36 am

    im sure 02 has decided not to release the n97 as it has skype integrated and that will mean less money for the operator?!

  18. Avatar TS 02/12/2009 @ 12:07 am

    I left O2 because they couldnt offer the N97. Transferred my number to another network for a week or two and then bought the n97 on O2 from a 3rd party retailer. I think the internet tariff is much better on o2 than elsewhere and reception is quite good. Still I’m not saying o2 are perfect – had my share of disputes in the past.

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