updated 11:00 am EDT, Tue April 29, 2008
Russian iPhone market
The iPhone is extremely popular in Russia despite its official absence from the country, according to multiple accounts. Analyst Eldar Murtazin of Mobile Research Group notes that there are approximately 500,000 iPhones operating in Russia, making for the third-highest number in the world after the United States and China; neither China nor Russia have had deals signed between Apple and a regional carrier. Instead, it is said to be common for Russians to travel to the US and buy phones in bulk, and then smuggle them back home for resale.
The cost of a Russian iPhone is said to be extremely high, with the 8GB model selling for at least $700, approximately $300 more than in the US; in the first days after the iPhone's American debut, some Russians were paying as much as $1,800. Modern phones must still be unlocked, and ideally equipped with a Russian language pack; while this can be done for free by skilled owners, the process can cost another $40 for the average buyer.
The principal buyers are said to be Russia's wealthy elite, including members of the Kremlin such as regional development minister Dmitry Kozak, who has been seen showing it in the company of President-Elect Dmitry Medvedev.