By LEONG HUNG YEE
APPLE Inc’s iPhone may technically not be available in Malaysia yet, but many own them while many more have at least fiddled with one.
The iconic iPhone, which combines three products – mobile phone, wide-screen iPod and Internet communication device – was introduced in January 2007; an enhanced version called iPhone 3G was launched in June this year.
The first generation iPhone was introduced nearly two years ago, but the coveted phone is still not sold in Malaysia. Nonetheless, there are other touch-screen mobile phones available locally such as Samsung’s Omnia smartphone and LG’s Secret.
Apple plans to distribute the device in Malaysia similar to how it was done in the US, via an agreement to appoint AT&T as the exclusive service provider of the device. Under the agreement with AT&T, US customers who purchase the iPhone, priced from US$499, would have to commit to a two-year contract with the service provider. Apple is working on the same distribution model in Europe and other markets for iPhone.
On the local front, Maxis Communication Bhd, which has been rumoured to be vying to be the exclusive distributor of the highly sought-after mobile phone, has not commented much on this.
Many have been asking why Maxis has taken so long to bring the phone to our shores. Some pointed out that a new model generally takes about six months to get here and some phone models are even launched in Malaysia before other markets.
Industry players said Malaysian mobile service providers did not have the practice of selling phones along with their packages. And like in most markets, Apple would leave all the distribution aspects to the service provider partner.
Analysts said Maxis had an advantage over its peers in securing a deal with Apple due to its large consumer base.
Industry players said Apple was also known to take a big cut from the service provider’s sales for the iPhone; therefore, local service providers were reluctant to bring the phone into Malaysia.
Recently, SingTel, which distributes the iPhone in Singapore, Australia, the Philippines and India, has been hit by reduced profits because it was subsidising the device.
At press time, Apple had yet to reply to StarBizWeek queries on the status of iPhone in Malaysia.
Many iPhone fans in the country have gone the extra mile to purchase the phones abroad. Singapore is the nearest country which distributes the iPhone.
Blogger David Wang, who blogs at mymacbuzz.com bought his iPhone 3G for about RM3,500 across the causeway.
He said he was required to sign up a two-year plan with SingTel.
“I signed up for an iOne Plus plan, which is the cheapest in terms of monthly commitment to qualify me for an iPhone. The handset cost about S$848 while the plan costs S$25.68 per month,” Wang said.
He added that his phone cost worked out to about RM2,049 while the monthly fee was about RM62.
The iPhone 3G, which went on sale in 22 countries when it was launched in June, is currently available in more than 50 countries.
Apple sold one million iPhone 3Gs in its first three days of sale.
On Oct 21, Apple announced sales of 6.89 million iPhones in its fiscal fourth quarter of 2008. Up to then, it had sold 13 million units of iPhone 3G.