Russian President caught playing with black market iPhone

In Russia, iPhones are the must have accessory, even though you can only buy them on the black market. Even Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President, has one – check out this BBC video of Medvedev playing with his iPhone during a press conference with Nicolas Sarkozy.

Medvedev can clearly be seen picking up his iPhone while Sarkozy is speaking, and sliding his finger across the screen to activate it.

Russian iPhone black market

It’s not just the President who is fascinated by iPhones. Chechen Warlord Ramzan Kadyrov was reportedly fascinated by the iPhone when he first saw it:

At a business conference in the southern city of Krasnodar this year, Kadyrov sat with Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president-elect; Dmitry Kozak, the minister of regional development, and Alexander Tkachev, the local governor. According to a journalist at the conference, the four passed the Apple phone back and forth as Kozak demonstrated its features to Kadyrov.

No news so far, though, of whether Vladimir Putin owns an iPhone.

Around 500,000 iPhones have been sold on the Russian black market so far, despite the fact that they cost around $1,000 apiece. No national carrier officially supports the iPhone yet, so it has to be unlocked before use.

iPhone Russia: soon to be legally available

Given this phenominal demand, it’s hardly surprising that anticipation of the official 3G iPhone’s Russian launch has reached fever pitch in recent months.

Three national carriers have announced they will be selling the 3G iPhone in Russia – Megafon, Vimpelcom (Beeline) and MTS. A Russian iPhone won’t come cheap though – the 8GB version will set you back a whopping 23,000 roubles ($920), and the 16GB version for 27,000 roubles ($1,080).

Demand for iPhones is clearly insanely high in Russia. But the price point set by the three main carriers doesn’t seem very competitive to me. You could buy a first generation iPhone on the Russian black market for around $1,000, so I’m not sure why people will flock to the carriers to buy a legitimate iPhone – particularly when there is a strong tradition in Russia of buying a mobile phone privately, and buying just the contract from the carrier.

Sill, the carriers are optimistic. They expect to sell at least 3.5 million iPhones across Russia during the rest of 2008 and 2009. That’s a pretty impressive figure at that price point, particularly when you consider that, so far, Apple has only managed to sell 10 million iPhones worldwide, mostly in countries far richer than Russia.

Yushchenko iPhoneUpdate: It looks like Dmitry Medvedev is a bit behind the times. Thanks to Solnishka for pointing out that Viktor Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine has been using his iPhone for months.

And, before you ask – no, the iPhone isn’t legally available in Ukraine yet. Yushchenko’s version is another of those black market numbers. There’s been no news yet of when the iPhone will be available in Ukraine, but I’m betting it’ll be well after Yushchenko is ousted as President…

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10 Responses

  1. Aleks says:

    As long as it doesn’t get stolen. Could provide some useful intel. There are of course programs to help keep your iPhone clean:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/21/iwash_iphone_screen_clean/

  2. Tim Newman says:

    Around 500,000 iPhones have been sold on the Russian black market so far, despite the fact that they cost around $1,000 apiece. No national carrier officially supports the iPhone yet, so it has to be unlocked before use.

    There are a few guys here who have one, mainly expats. I am shocked that they would return from their leave in Thailand and Malaysia with knocked-off gear.

  3. Tim Newman says:

    That’s a pretty impressive figure at that price point, particularly when you consider that, so far, Apple has only managed to sell 10 million iPhones worldwide, mostly in countries far richer than Russia.

    Never underestimate the ability of Russians to prioritise their spending towards personal accessories. One of our employees borrowed $2,000 (about 6 weeks’ wages) to buy a watch for himself. Women will spend a months’ wages on a pair of shoes. I think they’ll be a lot of Russian forgoing a few meals to buy an iPhone.

  4. Irishman says:

    ”Never underestimate the ability of Russians to prioritise their spending towards personal accessories. One of our employees borrowed $2,000 (about 6 weeks’ wages) to buy a watch for himself. Women will spend a months’ wages on a pair of shoes. I think they’ll be a lot of Russian forgoing a few meals to buy an iPhone.”

    There’s nothing surer. Mate of mine married to a Muscovite, living in Moscow, was telling me once how they hadnt a penny to eat for two weeks after his wife bought a pair of Gucci shades for him for $500. Which would have been all very well, were it not for the fact that (a) he didnt want them and (b) he’d never owned a pair of shades before. I’ve often strolled to shoe shops with the wife on Leninsky and been aghast at the price of some shoes, many well over $1000, to which she replied, in a logic many dyevishki have ”You dont understand. The shoes are Italian. They’re worth it”

  5. Owen says:

    I completely agree with Tim. A friend of mine, who made $200 a month, saved up to buy a $600 phone. While I wouldn’t shell out more than 3,000 rubles for a phone. After all, most people just text and call . . .

  6. Solnishka says:

    Also Ukrainian president Yushenko is making phone calls with his iPhone, see http://cultofmac.com/used-iphones-worth-1000-in-ukraine-even-scratched-ones/1976

  7. Alec L says:

    if you think about it, apple products are perfect for russia — high cost, hip design, smacking of western-style consumerism, and a high-visibility status symbol. a high-powered team of ad execs/russia experts couldn’t have designed a product better-tailored for the russian consumer.
    as for the price, my guess is the black market price will drop a bit, making it the more appealing alternative to store-bought.
    and as for medvedev caught playing around on his iphone when serious business is afoot, this just reinforces my belief that most politicians are just overgrown kids playing out childhood fantasies of power and control.
    alec
    http://eagleandthebear.wordpress.com/

  8. Natalie says:

    Actually, Medvedev has had the iPhone for at least several months–see here: http://iphone.macworld.com/2008/03/in_russia_its_iphone_for_presi.php

  9. Bob says:

    Well the Russians girls I know aren’t like that. Your pals must be falling for the ones who think an expat is a good catch and will provide them for life. My wife and her friends are the opposite.

  1. September 23, 2008

    […] L’iPhone, le téléphone des présidents? C’est bien possible, d’autant plusieurs que plusieurs sources affirment que Nicolas Sarkozy a lui aussi été vu avec un iPhone par le passé. [Siberian Light] […]