iPhone users will need iTunes account, Apple says

Consumers planning to buy the iPhone will need an iTunes Store account to activate the device

Consumers planning to buy the iPhone when it goes on sale in the U.S. later this month will need to have an iTunes Store account before they can activate the device, according to information on Apple's Web site.

Apple will require customers to establish a separate account with its online media service in addition to one with AT&T Wireless Services, which has signed an exclusive U.S. distribution deal for the iPhone.

The move will allow Apple to create its own billing relationship with iPhone customers, rather than collecting payments for any iTunes purchases they make via the mobile operator.

"It would be naive to imagine that Apple wouldn't leverage iTunes with iPhone," said Emma Mohr-McClune, senior analyst for wireless services in Europe at Current Analysis.

Mobile handset vendors, such as Nokia and Motorola, will be keeping a close eye on Apple's strategy of linking content with handsets, she said.

The postingon the Apple Web site informs potential customers that if they don't already have an iTunes Store account, they should set one up "to save time later."

An Apple spokeswoman in Europe declined to comment further.

The iPhone is due to go on sale in the U.S. on June 29. The company has announced plans for a European release in the fourth quarter of the year but has yet to provide details, such as whether the European version will operate on 3G (third-generation) networks.

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