Apple (AAPL) without any prior announcements has unlocked its iPhone 3G in Hong Kong, permitting people to use it with any mobile phone carrier.
On its Hong Kong Web site, the Cupertino-based company is advertising direct sales of iPhone 3G. An 8 gigabite [GB] phone is selling for $5,400 HK ($695), while a 16GB version costs $6,200 HK ($798). People can buy directly from Apple and choose their own carrier.
This should be an exciting news for HK iPhone fans who have been holding back from buying the 3G device because of Apple’s exclusivity with Hong Kong’s largest wireless carrier – Hutchison Telecom Ltd. Since iPhone’s global rollout in July, Hong Kong buyers could only purchase the multimedia phone from Hutchison Telecom with a 24 month – mobile contract.
Apple’s latest move of unlocking HK iPhone to go with any carrier, seems to depart from co.’s previous strategy where Apple would partner only with carriers whose subscriber identity module card was strictly locked down, preventing use of an iPhone on any network other than the one it was originally bought for. Whether this is a new adopted strategy by Apple or only a test of that particular market, remains to be seen. For the time being the co. continues to work on expanding its potential market through new global carrier partners while being committed to the objective of selling 10 million iPhones during fiscal ’08. (Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner sees Apple selling 14.5 million iPhones in calendar 2008, well above the company’s 10 million unit target, and 28 million units in 2009) [Barron’s].
The mobile phone industry continues to grow in a systematic manner. Only 12% of the world’s population had a mobile phone in 2000. Now that figure is well over 50% and is projected to reach about 61% by the end of ’08. Certainly, Apple with the introduction of its third generation device has become a major component of that growth.
According to the head of the UN’s agency for information and communication technologies – there will be 4 billion mobile phone users by the end of the current year.