A big week for the iPhone and a growing mystery

Apple pledged to sell 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008.  It is scrambling to meet this ambitious claim, having sold 5.4 million iPhones worldwide so far.  One key way Apple is looking to meet this goal is by forging alliances with more carriers around the globe.

While Apple initially had trouble gaining traction with Asian carriers, with talks with Japan and China going nowhere, the company has finally made some progress in the Orient.   Apple announced four major deals on Monday, three of which are in Asia and its islands.  The first is with SingTel, who will sell the iPhone in Singapore.  The next deal with Bharti Airtel Ltd. brings the iPhone to India.  And a pact with Globe Telecom Inc. is bringing the iPhone to the Philippines.  Apple also announced a deal with Australian carrier Optus to bring the phone down under.

Singtel owns or holds significant shares in the other companies, part of why it was so easy to make so many big name deals.  It has 2.3 million subscribers in Singapore, while Optus, its property, has 7 million Australian subscribers.  Bharti has 64 million subscribers and Globe has 21.3 million subscribers.

The deals follow the biggest news last week, that America Movil SAB, the largest telecom in Latin America had reached a deal with Apple to distribute the phone.  America Movil serves over 16 countries and has 159.2 million subscribers.  The deal is among the largest for Apple.

Those are not the only recent deals from Apple though.  Rogers Communications Inc. will sell the phone in Canada, Milan-based Telecom Italia SpA will distribute the phone in Italy, and Vodafone Group PLC will sell the phone in 10 different countries including Australia, India, Italy and Turkey.  Vodafone is the largest mobile company in terms of sales.

One might note that Apple's deals with Vodafone and Optus/Singtel mean that it will have two carriers in the same country for Australia and India which represents a policy shift.  Some speculate that Apple may consider eventually bringing the phones to other American carriers, eliminating the curious cat-and-mouse game (as Apple CEO Steve Jobs puts it) of unlocking.

As well as its many deals, a mystery has continued since last week.  Last month saw some shortages online, which lead to speculation that Apple was selling out its stocks to prepare for an early release of the long awaited 3G iPhone.  Now Apple's online stores in the U.S. and UK have been confirmed by Apple to be totally out of stock.

Apple refused to comments on the reasons for the shortage or on speculation about the new model.  It did say that some units still may be available in its brick-and-mortar stores.  The new iPhone is expected be announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The new iPhone according to an early report, may be priced at a more affordable $199, placing it below even the highest end iPod.  Whether you love the iPhone or hate it, it interesting to watch the big moves that are taking place with it in the world market.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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