Announcements that Apple has signed three operators for provision of the Apple iPhone in Europe make it doubtful that South Africa will see a local launch of the product any time soon. There are several factors making it unlikely that the iPhone will be made available in South Africa for the foreseeable future – and now with network operators being announced for Europe that have no ties to South African operators, it seems more doubtful than ever.
The hopes of South African geeks rested on the possibility that Vodafone in Europe seemed like the most likely network operator to receive the iPhone contract. It would have made sense for Apple – because Vodafone has broad coverage in Europe and Apple could have killed many birds with one stone, so to speak.
But it became known this week that Apple has concluded agreements with three separate network operators in Europe – and Vodafone isn’t one of them. T-Mobile is reported have been assigned as operator for Germany, with O2 taking the UK contract and Orange for France.
Had Vodafone been selected as European operator, it would have brought the iPhone closer to South Africa via local provider Vodacom, which is part-owned by Vodafone.
In its own capacity, Apple has no interest in a local release of the iPhone. South Africa has no iTunes Music Store – and the iPhone is activated via a store account. The Apple presence in South Africa is meagre and the company shows little to no interest in expending its local business, rather trusting a distribution partner to cover the region in the form of Apple IMC.
Vodafone, on the other hand, might have filled the gap by extending its iPhone operator status to accommodate the South African territory.
But there may still be one small glimmer of hope; Orange is a network operating in multiple European regions, including the UK. However, Apple chose to go with O2 in the UK, leaving France to Orange. Perhaps it’s possible that Vodafone may be selected for another territory – like Italy? It’s not likely – in fact, it’s incredibly unlikely seen as Apple’s prerequisite for iPhone operators is that they hand ten percent of profits generated by the iPhone back to Apple. It is unlikely that Vodafone would agree to that.
The option of buying an iPhone in Europe and bringing it back to South Africa is also not viable. The iPhone must be included with an operator contract and locks up if the device is detected on international roaming status for longer than two months. While it is possible to find ways around this, they are not exactly feasible.
The iPhone will be available in Europe by the end of the year. Sorry kids, but it doesn’t seem likely we’ll ever see it in South Africa. Perhaps in a future generation of the device, but not any time soon.