Retailers are warning shoppers to “be careful” if they are considering buying the new iPhone 5 on the grey market.
Experts say many of the device’s lauded advantages over the 4S version are not applicable in the UAE and anyone buying on the grey market might be unable to obtain a sim card until the telecommunications operators du and Etisalat officially launch their contracts.
“There are going to be three different versions of the iPhone coming in three different frequencies,” said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics. “Not all the frequencies work in the UAE.”
One of the key selling points of the iPhone 5 is its compatibility with 4G networks, known at LTE networks, which offer the fastest internet connectivity speeds. But different countries use different types of these networks, so Apple has released three different versions of the iPhone 5 to cater for that, with only one version expected to be compatible in the UAE.
“LTE is the next-generation mobile infrastructure you have now,” said Mr Panjabi. “It’s a much faster network than what you have currently in your 3G networks. If you plan on travelling a lot, check if the countries you travel to are on the same frequency, as the LTE network infrastructure in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for example, are different.”
Apple had similar issues this year with its latest iPad – unofficially dubbed the “iPad 3” – because it worked on a different frequency from the new 4G networks in markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Retailers advise shoppers to check what model of the iPhone they are buying if they are doing so from overseas or on the grey market, so they get the correct version.
“That’s something consumers are going to have to be careful with if they are not aware of what they are buying,” said Omar Kassim, the chief executive of the online retailer JadoPado. “Consumers do need to be careful.”
Both Mr Panjabi and Mr Kassim also warned buying an iPhone 5 on the grey market before the official launch in the UAE might be a waste of money to start with because the new iPhone 5 holds a nano sim card, smaller than both the standard sim and the micro sim used in an iPhone 4.
Retailers expect both du and Etisalat to only sell and convert old sim cards to the new nano sim when the iPhone 5 is officially launched in the UAE, which might not be until December.
“As of date, both carriers in the UAE have said their phones don’t have nano sims readily available, though we suspect this will roll-out shortly,” said Mr Panjabi. “I expect most mobile operators will have it, it’s just a case of when they can get it.”
He added some of the features on the new iPhone would also not function very well in the UAE, such as mapping and the Siri voice function.
Apple recently dropped Google Maps as its provider and is now using its own application, which is likely to be low on information in the Middle East, retailers said.
Launched on Wednesday in the United States, the iPhone 5 is expected to cost up to Dh12,000 (US$3,267) when it arrives on the grey market in the UAE.
The new phone is about slimmer and lighter than the previous version and has a 10cm screen.
It will use a new chip called the A6, described as offering twice the speed of the existing processor and features an improved camera, speaker, earpiece and smaller dock connector.
“We understand how keen our customers are to get one,” du said yesterday.
“iPhone 5 promises an immersive user experience and our customers will enjoy speeds of 100 Mbps on 4G LTE … on our state-of-the-art 4G network. Soon, we’ll bring this much-anticipated new smartphone to the UAE, with attractive data plans and nano sims.