x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

iPhone now at Etisalat stores

The Apple iPhone is now available in Etisalat stores and is being sold through a number of 12-month contract packages.

The Apple iPhone, which sold more than 10 million units worldwide last year but remained unavailable in the UAE, will be on sale in Etisalat stores from today. The cost of the device will vary, with the operator offering eight different pricing plans tied to 12-month packages. Customers who sign up to a Dh643 (US$175) monthly package will get the phone free, along with 500 minutes of national calling time, 300 national SMS messages and 2 gigabytes of internet downloads over the Etisalat 3G network. On less expensive packages, the iPhone will cost anywhere from Dh3,090 for the top-of-the-line 16 gigabyte phone on the cheapest Dh200 per month package, to Dh560 for an 8 gigabyte device on a Dh500 monthly plan. A company statement announcing the launch did not say whether the phone would come locked to the Etisalat network. Etisalat management was not available for comment. The Emirates Mac User Group, a community of Apple fans, was having its monthly gathering yesterday when the details of the iPhone plans were launched. "The initial reaction from a lot of people here is that it is fairly expensive," said Magnus Nystedt, the organiser of the group. "But I think that once they sit down and have a better look at the details, their opinions might become a little more rounded." Mr Nysted, who also edits Shufflegazine, a publication for Apple users, said the packages appeared "fairly decent" to him at first glance, particularly for everyday users. "But for people like me, two gigabytes of downloads is going to disappear pretty fast. I am interested to know what the charges will be for extra data." The plans are considerably more expensive than similar packages in the Middle East and further abroad. In Egypt, the iPhone package costs 550 Egyptian pounds per month (Dh365) including 1,200 voice minutes, 200 SMS messages and one gigabyte of data downloads. In Australia, the Optus network charges A$114 (Dh270) per month for a plan including unlimited voice calls and text messages, and 1.5 gigabytes of data downloads. The purchase price for the phone is less than Dh100. The Orange network in Jordan offers the iPhone for a purchase price of Dh1,185 on a monthly contract that includes 2,000 voice minutes, 1,000 text messages and 2 gigabytes of downloads. That plan costs Dh415 per month. While Etisalat may be pricing the device and its plans at the upper end of most international operators, the packages are the company's first attempt to offer voice calling, text messages, mobile internet access and a handset on a bundled monthly plan. The company offers an unlimited mobile internet package at Dh460 per month, with mobile calls charged at Dh0.30 per minute. The agreement to bring the iPhone to the UAE was more than a year in the making, with the company negotiating both with Apple, its manufacturer, and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), which oversees all communications services offered in the UAE. The TRA has said in the past that it would not tolerate exclusivity agreements between handset manufacturers and mobile networks, but has declined to comment on the Etisalat-Apple deal. Etisalat said it submitted the final agreement to the regulator for approval, with no objections raised. Osman Sultan, the chief executive of du, Etisalat's competitor, believes that any agreement between Etisalat and Apple that would restrict du's ability to also offer the iPhone would be anti-competitive, and an abuse of the dominant market position held by Etisalat. There has been no comment from du regarding the possible launch of the iPhone on its network, but Mr Sultan confirmed that his company has been in talks with Apple "since the beginning". tgara@thenational.com