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Today’s been pretty much all about T-Mobile’s new Google Android phone, the G1, but there is other mobile news out there. Apple has just unveiled a new process by which you can buy and partially activate an iPhone 3G (you remember that device right?) online.

By visiting the new Buy iPhone 3G page on Apple’s website, you are now allowed to enter your billing information, review eligibility and select an AT&T rate plan all from the comfort of your home. However, when you’ve completed these steps you’ll still need to go into an Apple retail store to pick up the phone.

This new online step is an attempt to streamline the sign-up process. While all of the first generation iPhones could be bought in store or online and activated at home through iTunes, Apple and AT&T changed that policy for the iPhone 3G to prevent users from unlocking it (opening it up for use on other networks). Because all activation has to be done in stores, it takes quite a bit longer to purchase an iPhone 3G as compared with the original. And that definitely played a roll in the botched iPhone 3G launch day.

Despite early assurances that you’d be able to buy an iPhone 3G without a contract through Apple, there is still no indication of when this will happen. Buying the device that way would cost significantly more than buying it with a 2-year AT&T contract, because AT&T subsidizes the phone down to $199.

In case you’re wondering, T-Mobile’s G1 phone, due out next month, won’t require an in-store purchase. Consumers can buy it right online.


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