SingTel – BT

SingTel to take another bite at new iPhone?

The phone which launched a thousand queues will hog the technology spotlight all over again as Apple kick-starts its annual developer conference today.

If the third incarnation of the iPhone is indeed unveiled, Singapore Telecommunications looks set to take another exclusive bite at the coveted device.

This is because the operator’s iPhone monopoly will last for another year at least, according to a telecommunications industry insider.

With the dearth of competing touch-screen phones from handset giants such as Samsung, LG Electronics and HTC, Apple will take the quickest route to market by relying on its existing distribution agreements in Asia. ‘It (the exclusivity) also adds to the phone’s appeal,’ he said.

SingTel and its three regional units were given the right to sell Apple’s iPhone 3G last year under a regional pact covering Singapore, Australia, India and the Philippines.

Speculation is rife that new models – which could include enhancements to its camera module and storage capacity – could surface as early as tonight during Apple’s annual WorldWide Developers Conference in the United States, the same platform for the iPhone 3G launch last year.

Beyond a hardware refresh, they are also expected to incorporate iPhone 3.0, a new operating system which promises to fix niggling quirks such as the inability to copy and paste text and send multimedia messages.

‘Apple has made an art of launching evolutionary upgrades with each iPod refresh – slimmer designs, more colours and more memory. This has enabled the longevity of the product line. The iPhone likewise does not need a radical redesign, but beyond a lower price and more memory, it could certainly benefit from some cosmetic retouching,’ said Aloysius Choong, a research manager with technology analyst firm IDC Asia-Pacific.

When contacted, both SingTel and Apple declined comment on the tenure of their current contract. ‘Since the launch of the iPhone 3G last August, we have been working closely with Apple to enhance our customers’ iPhone experience and will definitely look at introducing new products from Apple whenever these are ready for market in Singapore,’ said SingTel spokesman Peter Heng.

SingTel has sold more than 100,000 units of the phone and it continues to rank among the company’s top-selling models today. Apple forbids individual operators from disclosing their sales tally but the gadget maker said 8.2 million iPhones were sold globally in the six months ended March 28.

‘Apple came out of nowhere to capture a 10 per cent share of the Singapore converged (devices) market in 2008. Shipments have declined over time but (iPhone) volumes remain impressive given that Apple’s entire portfolio comprises a grand total of two models,’ said Mr Choong.

StarHub and MobileOne were initially confident of breaking the iPhone stranglehold last year, but the handset is still docked at only one local operator.

Mobile users who are locked down by their M1 and StarHub subscription deals have to wait out their contracts or buy unsubsidised iPhones from the grey market at hefty prices. This has prompted some consumers to resort to online petitions to try and get Apple to change its mind.

‘We continue to receive feedback from our customers that they would like to get the iPhone and be connected to StarHub’s network. We really want to meet these requests and have continuously indicated our keen interest to Apple to distribute the iPhone,’ a StarHub spokeswoman said.

Leave a Reply