The real cost of the iPhone 3G according to Singtel

How much will the iPhone retail in Singapore for exactly?

As the Mac faithful have found out after watching Lord Steve’s WWDC keynote, iPhones will not be sold for more than USD$199 in all countries (in Apple’s own exchange rates) so long they are being sold with data plans and contracts.

Is it really the case?

Why, then, are there news coming from many insiders from Singtel that the iPhone will be sold unsubsidized in Singapore, for a price of $500 to $1000?

Singtel, the strongest mobile operator in Singapore simply because it is “state-owned” (it is privatized, but the major shareholder is Temasek Holdings, which is stated-owned, and is controlled largely by the ruling family in Singapore, the Lee family), is almost definitely the main choice when Apple was looking, many months ago, for a mobile operator to launch the iPhone 3G in Singapore. Furthermore, Singtel, with a large number of subsidaries in Southeast Asia and Australia (Optus Group), will give Apple the benefit of being able to sell to a large number of SEAsian countries while working with just one operator in the region. Which is why it was not surprising when the news broke that Singtel had secured the rights to sell and distribute the iPhone 3G in Singapore, during the Stevenote at WWDC 2008.

Since then, however, there has been a spade of unconfirmed news from a few very trustworthy sources that Singtel will not, as Steve said, sell the iPhone 3G for only USD 199 in Singapore. Instead, these sources claimed, the iPhone 3G will be sold totally unsubsidized, coupled with a contract and a Singtel data plan, and will retail for about 500 to 1000SGD, which makes it around 370USD to 720USD, two to four times the price of the original iPhone 3G.

While there have been news and rumors that other operators such as AT&T will be offering the iPhone 3G unsubsidized and without a contract for a higher price, the case with Singtel has been that they will be selling for a higher price anyway, even with a contract and a data plan. The excuse here seems to be that mobile phones, especially smart phones, are in the range of 1000-1500SGD in Singapore anyway, and according to sources Singtel apparently thought that it makes no business sense to be selling the iPhone that cheap in a country where most people treat mobile phones as a status symbol. Singaporeans are constantly on the lookout for better and more expensive phones to buy, and most Singaporeans change mobile phones on a 6-months basis.

While the majority of this report is based on nothing but unofficial rumors, to most Singaporeans this(iPhones priced at 1000SGD) is definitely a scenario that is highly possible, and while most Singaporeans will cringe at the price set by Singtel, there will still be many of us who will shell out the additional dollars for the iPhone, especially since it is now almost impossible to buy an iPhone from another country without first signing a contract and activating the iPhone, largely stopping all possible illegal hacking by the iPhone jailbreaking community.

Looks like Singtel will be the big winner here.


MacRyu is the Mac Blog by Singaporeans and for Singaporeans. It was started in April 2007 as a side project of the then President of the Official Mac User Group of NUS, Ryu, and grew to become possibly one of the most popular Apple-related sites based in Singapore. MacRyu hopes to provide you with more Mac-related info, thoughts and stuff, from the Singaporean perspective.

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