O2 EDGE network coverage

With the iPhone being launched at 6:02pm yesterday (and having had a play with one in a shop today – it’s definitely shiny, it’s probably worth £70 on top of the iPod Touch*, but it’s not even close to being worth £900, this being the total cost over 18 months of an iPhone and O2’s lowest-cost tariff) the single outstanding question (other than “can a non-removable battery in a device that can’t be turned off or charged without a special adapter last for 18 months?”) is over network coverage for the EDGE technology that Apple, in their infinite wisdom, decided to hobblebuild the phone with.

O2’s UK coverage pages on it’s website should make sobering reading for potential iPhone purchasers… the current UK map as of now looks as follows:

O2 Coverage

… where the light-blue area is “Standard” coverage, and the dark-blue area is “High”. There is no mention of EDGE.

Assuming that areas of EDGE coverage are euphemistically being referred to as High Coverage areas, then it appears that iPhone owners outside of London and the South-East are going to be disappointed. Having said this, the fact that EDGE isn’t specifically mentioned leads me to wonder if the areas of coverage may be smaller than this – otherwise surely O2 would be more actively publicising the level of coverage that exists.

What happens when an iPhone leaves an area of EDGE coverage? Can it fall-back to GPRS, or even to dial-up GSM services?

* Although only because, in my opinion and at £199, the iPod Touch is too expensive itself. An 80Gb iPod “Classic” is only £159, and whilst the touch-screen is definitely a cool feature, the £199 iPod touch has only the same amount of memory as my 2G iPod Nano… and that’s over a year old now. Indeed, the 16Gb iPod Touch is exactly the same price as the 8Gb iPhone – and what would you rather have for your £70? 8Gb memory, or a mobile phone?