Which is precisely why I will never buy Orange, ever
Not because I am an early adopter (I am) but because of what Orange end up doing to a perfectly good handset. That the bulk of Orange's customers care not that the handset is loaded up with their crippleware is irrelevant. But it is quite telling to the Orange victim when you pull out the same handset of theirs, do something and hear them say "Ooooh, my handset doesn't do that, how come yours does?".
Generally, the intense branding that Orange applies reduces rather than enhances the experience for the customer. That they don't realise it is, again irrelevant. If they don't now, then they will in the future.
"... the operators matter ...." Only to deliver the network and reasonable tariffs for voice, text and data - nothing else. Orange are notorious for not doing any of those - they are last in the delivery of reasonable data tariffs. They even charge for the customer to access the Orange portal! So as the notion of using a handset for data grows into the user's psyche their discrimination against the likes of Orange will grow also.
As handsets become more like mobile computers, particularly for the basics, the resistance to branding will occur. How many of us, for example, would accept an Orange-branded personal computer? Yet we all manage quite nicely thank you without the "assistance" of our network provider. Expect the same in the mobile world.
Orange are becoming an increasingly irrelevant bit player.
Pirate flag - beware any mobile operator who hijacks your handset