The almost mythological speculation as to the identity of Apple's European iPhone partners continues with reports now claiming that Vodafone has taken the much-coveted prize.

Apple is alleged to be finalising a deal with Vodafone to bring the iPhone to Europe, according to

It is not yet clear if the deal is pan-European or for specific territories only. It would be unlikely that Apple would work with only one mobile carrier in Europe as coverage differs on a country by country basis.

The report also claims Apple to be tweaking iPhone in response to requests from European manufacturers, who want multiple word searches and Exchange support in the device.

Orange and O2 have also been reported as a likely contenders for an iPhone deal. Orange, Vodaphone and O2 all have an almost equal share of the UK market. Apple may wish to do deals with all three suppliers.

Meanwhile, industry observers anticipate that handset upgrades have begun to slow, as Europe's iPhone fans await announcement as to which networks will carry the device - an announcement that could emerge at Apple Expo, Paris at the end of September.