Apple expanded in the UK mobile market as Orange and Vodafone are to offer its popular iPhone for frenzy consumers, signaling a subtle shift in power away from the network operators towards the manufacturers.

According to the Times, thousands of customers have signed up despite having no idea when they will get one in their hand or what it will cost.

Together, the two carriers will bring to an end a two-year exclusive contract held by rival O2 which overtook Vodafone as the largest mobile network in the U.K. largely on surging consumer interest in the iPhone. O2 has scooped some of the country's highest-paying customers, thanks to its exclusive deal with Apple.

However, the success of the handset highlights the subtle shift in power away from the network operators towards the manufacturers, according to a Times report on Wednesday.

Up to the turn of the century, the likes of Nokia and Motorola could charge operators what they liked for phones,  as consumers cared little which operator they joined as long as they got a snazzy handset.

The networks wrested the initiative back by putting their brands directly on handsets and cutting deals with Asian manufacturers at a lower cost.

But Apple's success has shown the lure of a flashy new device and operators will now pay whatever it takes to ensure they don't miss out on the next big thing, which means they will be subsidizing smartphones in the hope of higher data revenue.