iPhone arrives in South Africa this week

After months of anticipation the Apple iPhone is finally officially being released to the South African market this week. And just in time for no one to care.

The local representative of Apple in South Africa, Apple IMC released a mailer this weekend suggesting that people contact their nearest iStore to secure an iPhone. As the local service provider that will carry the iPhone, Vodacom has confirmed the availability date as 23 September. And this time they mean it.

The original release was slated for July. Vodacom soon denied that July was ever on the cards, but the fact is that the Apple website listed South Africa with a launch date of July 11, until the website was later altered. This was an error on Apple’s behalf, despite Vodacom choosing to blame the press for the misinformation.

It then became clear that Vodacom had no idea when the Jesus phone would hit local shores and was reliant on Vodafone’s 11-country roll-out process. International stock shortages, and the fact that South Africa ranks low for release schedules from both Apple and Vodafone have pushed out the launch until now.

The fact that Apple IMC is involved in local provisioning of the device through its official retail presences suggests that the company will also be involved in service and support of the iPhone.

Much has happened in the mobile space since the international release of the 3G iPhone. Several competing smartphone devices have been launched, including the Nokia E71, HTC Diamond Touch and LG Viewty. Sony has announced that a PSP phone is on the way and the market has just received the latest device from BlackBerry, in the form of the Pearl. Are any of these devices as cool as the iPhone? Perhaps not, but they’ve been selling like hotcakes nonetheless… except the PSP phone… which isn’t around yet.

International users have also reported teething problems with the 3G iPhone, including service unavailability, cracked bezels and software problems. This may cause South Africans who would’ve picked up the device at initial launch in July to think twice now. And while a local iTunes Music Store has been launched to provide applications for the iPod Touch and iPhone, it does not provide music or video services and blocks access to the iTunes (free) podcast directory, further displaying Apple’s disregard for the South African market with the clear cookie-cutter approach taken to rolling out services and products in the developing world.

I can’t imagine that the iPhone will sell as well now as it would’ve three months ago. That’s not to say it won’t be lapped up by every faux-hawk in South Africa who wants to rock the messiah phone before his friends – but many of us who were initially excited at the arrival of the device just don’t care any more. The iPhone is sexy. It’s interface is one of a kind. The applications on offer from third-parties are awesome, despite Apple booting off some of the best apps for offering better functionality than Apple itself does. But given the long wait, disregard for the market and usual Apple arrogance, I’m not sure I want one. I have nothing against the device which is awesome, or Vodacom that has always given me great service as a customer (of over ten years now) – but the way Apple act you’d swear they don’t want customers outside of the first world. And maybe they don’t.

For a full discussion of the South African iPhone launch, checkout the latest episode of the ZA Tech Show podcast.

I'm a writer and broadcaster who also designs apps and strategies for disruptive startups in the financial world. Find out more on my about page.