Only less than 2 days until the WWDC 2008 Keynote and none of the Saudi Arabia mobile operators (STC, Mobily and the new Zain) announced any deal with Apple regarding the release of the iPhone in Saudi Arabia.
If this is the case then Apple is either:
1) Already in talks with one of those and nothing was announced until now.
2) Have no interest to officially release the iPhone in Saudi Arabia.
3) Going to release the iPhone unlocked directly to customers.
Let’s hope its the latter.
In any case, here are the issues that Apple needs to be aware of when/if they release the iPhone in Saudi Arabia officially:
1) Price: Apple is a US-based company and we hope to get a price based on the US Dollar. Assuming a base price of $400 that would be 1,500SR (Saudi Riyal) while the European price is 400 Euro which is equal to 2,368SR a huge difference in price that will effect the purchase. Also to note, Nokia devices cost less in Saudi Arabia than the European prices.
2) Arabic Support: Apple promised Arabic support for the iPods and Mac OS X two years ago. Only Mac OS X Arabic localization was release by Apple’s IMC. As for the current iPhone and iPod Touch. iPhoneIslam released an Arabic enabler application “Arabtaller”. Nokia is the number 1 phone in Saudi Arabia because they got the best Arabic support and we hope Apple would add that support as soon as possible.
3) Activation process: How will Apple handle the “activation process”? If it’s a “SIM locked” phone will the activation process be through iTunes or at the actual mobile telecom store?
4) App Store: Apple have not commented on any plans for an iTunes store in the Middle East. How will the iPhone and iPod Touch users access the App Store to download and install authorized applications and how can iPhone developers in Saudi Arabia sign up for the iPhone developer program?
5) Apple Service Centers: Apple only have 2 Service Providers and they are located in Riyadh only according to Apple IMC site. Compared to Nokia which have over 10 in Riyadh alone. And if you take an iPhone in, will they take 2 months to get a battery replacement in?.
Let’s hope Apple do in fact release the iPhone in Saudi Arabia at the same time as the rest of the world. If it takes more than a few months to bring the iPhone in the market then just like the first generation iPhone, people will sell unsupported unlocked iPhones.