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Analysts describe the number of unlocked iPhones as "astounding"

Apple’s iPhone was arguably the hottest piece of consumer electronic for 2007. Those who purchased iPhones were expected to activate new contracts on exclusive wireless networks in the U.S. and parts of Europe. This proved difficult for those who desperately wanted iPhones, but were either unwilling or unable to commit with AT&T – such as those who live outside of the officially supported territories.

Such restrictions have led savvy cell phone enthusiasts to acquire iPhone hardware, but evade the attached contract. Those who wish to run iPhone have to unlock the mobile before it may run on any outside GSM network.

According to analysts cited by Bloomberg, around 1 million of 3.75 million iPhones sold last year were unlocked to run on outside networks. Since Apple receives an estimated several hundred dollars in royalties for every iPhone contract, Toni Sacconaghi of Institutional Investor magazine believes that Apple is losing $300 to $400 million in future revenue due to the abundance of unlocked phones.

"The prevalence of unlocked iPhones presents a significant strategic dilemma to Apple," said Sacconaghi, adding that unlocked iPhones generate 50 percent less revenue and as much as 75 percent less profit than those under contract. Furthermore, new carriers may be reluctant to sign with Apple due to the unlocking market.

The prevalence of unlocked iPhones is something Apple is fully aware of, but doesn’t appear to be addressing. "The number of iPhones bought with the intention of unlocking was significant in the quarter, but we are unsure how to reliably estimate the number," Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook told analysts during Apple’s first-quarter results reveal. "We are unsure when all the recipients will activate."

Unlocked iPhones aren’t ideal for Apple’s business model, but aren’t completely bad either. Mike Abramsky of RBC Capital Markets wrote in a report that unlocked phones, "though a headache for carriers, are financially positive for Apple, and in our view bode well for global iPhone demand, and for Apple exceeding its 10 million, 18-month target."

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By ForumMaster on 1/29/2008 9:47:52 AM , Rating: 2
this is definitely the case. i have several friends (I'm from Israel) that have an iphone. all obviously hacked.

also, a there was a big article in the newspapers yesterday about how several CEO's here have iphones, all unlocked. they also explained how to unlock the iphone.

if apple would offer it in other countries, people would buy it. it's an awesome device, just bound to a crappy cellular provider.

RE: indeed
By retrospooty on 1/29/2008 9:59:43 AM , Rating: 2
Yup. its scary to think how well it might do when better features and carriers are available on a future model.

Picture an iPhone with 3G, removable battery, GPS on almost any carrier worldwide.

RE: indeed
By Griswold on 1/29/2008 10:56:53 AM , Rating: 2
Apples greed will come back and bite them in the ass.

Though, Other "analysts" see over 600k iphones that are unaccounted for (if you add the numbers up that apple and the telcos provide minus the unlocked estimates). The bottom line of some reports is: the number of iphones sitting on the shelves / stuck in the channel could be increasing, same with the unlocked ones while the number of them sold and activated the way apple would want it to, is decreasing (I believe AT&T reported only 900k for Q4 - this includes the holiday season sales though!).

The iphone bubble might burst if apple keeps this bogus way of selling the iphone up.

Especially in europe, the sales figures are less than stellar - a meager 70k (activated ones) in germany since they started selling it last november... if you're generous, add a couple ten thousand unlocked ones, but thats still a joke for such a large market.

They day they get rid of this gag&bag tactics, I'll be buying one - just have to have patience, I guess.

RE: indeed
By CubicleDilbert on 1/29/2008 4:50:06 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, some 70.000 people in Germany got ripped off or were just stupid. That iphone with T-mobile contract costs around $3000-5000 (!!) for the 2-year contract. The monthly charges are astronomical.
No wonder, many immediately unlocked their phone and use Wifi instead of expensive T-Mobile ripp-off rates.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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