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.
Update: 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…