Following news that O2's exclusive UK rights to Apple's iPhone will soon be at an end with Orange to offer the smartphone in the near future O2 has responded with a statement that both praises its work with Apple and fights back with mention of its exclusive deal with Pal and its new Pre smartphone.

"We're proud that we've been able to offer an exclusive iPhone deal to our 20 million customers for the last two years," O2 states.

"We always knew that iPhone exclusivity was for a limited period of time, but our relationship with Apple continues and will be an ongoing success. We have over 1million iPhone customers and they remain very important to us.

"We aim to offer our customers the best devices on the market, including becoming the home of Smartphones and we are really pleased to now add another device in the Palm Pre.

"We also offer award-winning customer service and benefits, which is why more people choose O2 than any other network in the UK."

The Orange announcement, which comes as Apple's exclusive deal with O2 ends, follows months of speculation as to whether other UK networks would be able stock the handset.

"Orange UK and Apple have reached an agreement to bring iPhone 3G and 3GS to Orange UK customers later this year," the network said.

The network has yet to release availability dates or pricing for the handset. However consumers can register their interest at a dedicated Web site.

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