x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Sanctions don't curb Iran's young passion for iPhones

About 16 per cent of smartphone users boast a black-market iPhone, a survey has found.

Iran’s tech-savvy youth have an appetite for Apple – with about 16 per cent of smartphone users boasting a black-market iPhone, a survey found.

Apple has a particularly strict interpretation on United States sanctions, which prohibit its products from being sent to Iran.

The company’s zeal does not appear to be paying off, however, as 9 per cent of mobile users in Iran have an iPhone, according to Chimigi, which is part of the startup incubator Conovi. In the smartphone category, about 16 per cent of users have an iPhone, the survey found.

Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh, the managing partner at Conovi, said there was “significant” use of Apple products in Iran.

“IPhones and Apple are quite popular, despite Apple not officially being there,” he said. “All those phones are black market, if they were purchased in Iran.”

The survey was conducted online, and so is skewed towards Iran’s more youthful, technology-savvy population. This demographic has a strong demand for Apple products, said Mr Bozorgzadeh.

“They want to be trendy as far as mobile phones are concerned, he said. Retailers said popular electronics products inevitably found their way into Iran.

“The products will have found their way into the market one way or another,” said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky’s.

Jacky’s sells iPhone and iPad products in its UAE stores, but had not received any instructions not to sell to Iranian buyers, Mr Panjabi said.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Nokia was found to be the most popular mobile brand in Iran, with a 42 per cent share of the market, according to the Chimigi survey.

However, the Finnish company pulled out of Iran in August to comply with international sanctions.

“Nokia ended its direct operations in Iran, to ensure ongoing compliance with tightening EU and US trade sanctions. This unfortunately included the closure of our local office in Tehran at the end of August,” said a company spokeswoman. “Though we now have no local presence in Iran, consumers continue to be able to obtain Nokia devices through third parties.”

Samsung is the second most popular mobile brand in Iran, with a 20 per cent share of the Iranian market, followed by Sony (16 per cent) and HTC (10 per cent), the Chimigi survey found.

The “Digital Iran 2012” survey of 750 people who live in Iran, which was conducted last month, also found a high level of ecommerce use in Iran.

About 64 per cent of respondents use online banking, while 43 per cent said they shop online.

“Everyone was very surprised about online shopping and banking, which had a high level of engagement,” said Mr Bozorgzadeh.