The first Romanians who bought the iPhone 3G handset on the night of the launch preferred the 16GB version with subscription. Approximately 100 handsets were sold at the launch but the company also registered more than 6,000 pre-orders on its website.
“The iPhone is a special captivating handset with numerous multimedia capabilities and I am sure that Romanian users will be interested in our offer. We believe that by the end of 2008, iPhone sales will reach several tens of thousands of units,” said Richard Moat, CEO of Orange Romania. “We have not set any objective for 2009,” he added.
Still, Orange Romania representatives say the company has “very optimistic” estimates regarding the sale of iPhone. “We already have ten million customers and the iPhone will definitely draw the attention of customers of other networks. Orange Romania already has over 1 million customers who use broadband services and those who are used to using the most recent technologies will also most certainly want an iPhone,” Vanina Ungureanu, product division manager, told Business Review.
The iPhone 3G is available in all the Orange stores, in 25 stores of Orange partners such as Euro GSM, Fonomat and Say and the distribution network Apple Premium Reseller in Romania. It can also be acquired online from the webshop Orange Romania.
“The distribution network that we have created for the iPhone will support our ambitious plans regarding the sales,” says Ungureanu. “We are counting on the sales in the Orange Web Shop since iPhone customers are normally the most sophisticated customers, the best informed, and most keen to use the most recent technologies.”
The handset has prices ranging from EUR 179-489 depending on the model, the type of subscription and length of contract.
For a monthly subscription of EUR 39 running over two years that includes 300 national minutes, 100 SMS and 1GB of data traffic, the iPhone 3G starts at EUR 249. This applies to the 8GB model while the 16GB model will start EUR 329.
For an EUR 59 per month subscription (signed for a two-year period) that offers 500 national minutes, 500 SMS, 5 GB data traffic and special prices for international calls, the price is EUR 179.
Prepay users can buy the handset for EUR 519 for the 8GB version and EUR 609 for the 16GB version.
All the phones are coded on the Orange network but the company's representatives said the phone can be decoded for a supplementary tariff of EUR 100.
There was a “long but productive negotiation process” between France Telecom Group and Apple Inc. to include Romania on the list of distribution countries for the iPhone 3G, Ungureanu told Business Review. “France Telecom lobbied strongly to convince Apple that the Romanian market has a very large appetite for latest generation technological devices,” she said.
The rather high acquisition price for both the handsets and subscriptions was attributed by Richard Moat to the fact that the average revenue per user (ARPU) in Romania is much lower than in the Western countries, which is why the handset could not be subsidized more.
“In the United States and Western Europe, average incomes are three-four, even five times higher than in Romania, which is why operators can afford to offer higher deductions,” Moat said.
Market studies indicate that iPhone users usually generate incomes that are higher than customers with standard mobile phones since they use more data services. “Taking into account that the phone is now available in a version with 3G/HSDPA capacities and supplementary applications were added in App Store, we are expecting a significant increase in data use compared to the previous version of the 2G handset,” says Ungureanu. “Furthermore, market studies indicate that iPhone users are more willing to recommend the device to their fiends and families and the number of those who choose to abandon the iPhone and the corresponding service is very low in comparison with other devices.”
The iPhone 3G has up-to-date incorporated technologies for the creation of which producers registered several hundred innovation patents. “Mobile phones become more and more sophisticated, they resemble more and more PCs but iPhone 3G ensures a very friendly and easy usage experience,” says Ungureanu.
New smartphone launches?
According to the Orange Romania CEO, the iPhone 3G will “probably be the most sought after phone” but the Orange offer will also include other handsets – HTC Touch Diamond and Samsung Omnia, “so we will see competition in our own range.”
Orange representatives are also counting on their new flagship product to attract customers from their rivals on the telecom market. And these rivals are also keeping up with the Joneses and have already made new launches or are about to. Currently, pundits estimate the market of high-end phones to be 10 percent of total handset sales.
The second half of September will see a new launch from HTC: the smartphone HTC S740 that will be available for a price of EUR 415. And in a few weeks the launch of Samsung Omnia is expected to take place in Romania. One of the iPhone 3G's main competitors, Omnia is relatively similar to the iPhone and aims to facilitate mobile internet access. The model has a large screen for video, music capabilities and a camera of 5 megapixels.
Another main competitor of the iPhone 3G on the local market is the HTC Touch Diamond, which has been billed as “the star product in our portfolio at this moment” by Karsten Wildberger, chief commercial officer of the consumer business unit at Vodafone Romania. “The new model ranks top among the preferences of our customers who want a modern and stylish handset, but also remarkable features and functionalities,” said Wildberger. The handset is available at Vodafone Romania in four special packages at prices of up to EUR 249, depending on the package.
iPhone 3G demand varies around region
Still, while the Apple Inc. latest release has sparked great enthusiasm in the United States where some paid big money to be among the first to get their hands on the device, in Eastern European countries
such as Poland it was the other way round: people were being paid to line up.
“We have these fake queues at front of 20 stores around the country to drum up interest in the iPhone,” a spokesman for Orange said, according to Reuters.
As part of a marketing campaign ahead of the iPhone's Friday launch in Poland, the country's largest mobile operator Orange paid dozens of actors to stand in queues.
Apple sold about one million of the new iPhone models in the United States around the July launch weekend, but buyers in Poland may be reluctant to pay hefty monthly charges.
The highest demand in Poland was for the Black Model with a 16 GB memory.The Czech Republic warmed up more to the iPhone 3G. Mobile operators, which started to sell the handsets in the Czech market at midnight, sold around 3,500 phones on the first day, according to foreign media.
While in Romania, Orange is the only operator selling the device, in the Czech Republic it was sold though several mobile operators. Experts believe operators in the Czech Republic may sell over 50,000 iPhones this year.
By Otilia Haraga