Does anyone want an iPhone?

Apple has finally made its iPhone 3G available in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the response to the handset has not been great so far

Tags: Apple Incorporated
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By  Mark Sutton Published  February 25, 2009

Apple has finally made its iPhone 3G available in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the response to the handset has not been great so far.

According to Mobily 25,000 people either bought or reserved a handset online or in person in the first few hours of sales.

In the UAE meanwhile, Gulf News reported that the response was muted. (I tried to get some proper figures from Etisalat, but as usual, they completely failed to respond to my request).

Our own itp.net poll, which was carried out before the rental packages was announced, showed a similarly mixed response to the iPhone, with 28% of respondents saying they'd buy one, compared to 16% who want a Blackberry, 17% a Nokia or 6% another handset. Tellingly, more people - one third of all respondents - would rather save their money right now.

Mobily's reported response, seems to be in line with the sort of 'big bang' you might expect from the launch of a new iPhone model. When the 3G version was released in July of last year, Apple reported sales of one million handsets in three days across the 21 launch markets.

When looking for a comparison on a country-by-country basis the figure of 25,000 sales and reservations from a population of 28 million begins to look very low. In September last year, three months after launch, the sole UK vendor of iPhones, O2, said it was still shifting 27,000 units per week. That figure was down from 35,000 per week after the first month of sales, and given the UK population of 60 million.

The issue of course is that its not a new model. Most local comment was along the lines of either 'who cares' or 'got one already'. If you really wanted an iPhone, then they have been available grey market for a long time. Add to that rumours of a new iPhone model being lined up for launch sometime in early summer, the Obama effect and its easy to see why buyers aren't that interested. The local launch looks like an after-thought by Apple, and while I'd like to hope that they are quicker to launch a new model in this market, disappointing sales figures might mean Apple continues to ignore the Middle East.

One other issue around local iPhones is the pricing. While its hard to make a close comparison owing to differences in packages on offer, broadly, an Etisalat iPhone is going to cost you a lot more than a Mobily one. The best 16GB iPhone bundle from Etisalat would set you back $2,200 over twelve months, compared to just $1,370 for a similar package from Mobily; an 8GB bundle for Etisalat would be $1,799 for twelve months against a total of $1,107 for Mobily. Mobily is also offering pre-paid handsets, which Etisalat is not. So why is Mobily offering a better deal than Etisalat?

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