New iPhone launch expected to do away with grey market price hikes

New edition mobile and watch will be available in the Emirates a day after America to avoid import markups.
Apple marketing executive Phil Schiller discusses the headphone change at the iPhone 7 launch. Josh Edelson / AFP
Apple marketing executive Phil Schiller discusses the headphone change at the iPhone 7 launch. Josh Edelson / AFP

DUBAI // The launch of the iPhone 7 and Apple watch in the UAE is expected to wipe out much of the grey market for the firm’s products, experts said.

On Wednesday, Apple unveiled the latest iteration of its handset, claiming improvements to the screen, battery life, camera, audio quality and, in a move that prompted much debate, the removal of the headphone socket.

Order books in the UAE for the phone and watch will open on Friday, and the phone will go on sale on September 17 – a day after it hits the American market and eight days before the rest of the Gulf.

“Apple have done this for a number of reasons, not least because of the large grey market in the Middle East,” said Mike Priest, editor of Stuff magazine Middle East.

“It means consumers will get the phone virtually at the same time as the US and at pretty much the same price. I think the days of huge markups on imported iPhones is probably a thing of the past.”

Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer for retailer Jacky’s Electronics, said that while the grey market lost out on this latest phone, he expected demand for imported products with additional features would remain.

“There will still be a grey market for some consumers, particularly for those who want FaceTime because it’s not available in the UAE,” he said.

Apple’s decision to open an official store in Dubai last year was a sign of how important the UAE market is to the firm, Priest said.

Nadeem Khanzadah, an executive at Jumbo Group, agreed.

“It is extremely positive to note that the UAE is one of the first 25 countries where the new products will be officially available from September 16.

“We are expecting stocks in our stores by September 17 and on stand during Gitex Shopper on October 1.”

Both Etisalat and Du are offering customers the chance to order the new iPhone on the same date as Apple makes it available.

So what is new?

One controversial design decision was the removal of the headphone socket.

“Headphones as a technology have been pretty much unchanged for decades now so it will be interesting to see how manufacturers will respond to this,” said Priest.

Fahad Al Bannai, chief executive of Axiom, was hopeful the new earphones would be a game-changer for Apple.

He said the new so-called “lightning EarPods” would “revolutionise” the way users listened to phone calls, music and other audio feeds on their phones.

It is not the first time a company has taken the decision to remove from its products what was thought by customers to be an essential feature.

Samsung removed the option to use memory cards on some of its phones but later had to reintroduce them, said Mr Panjabi.

“There were benefits to have a bigger screen and bigger batteries, but consumers in general wanted the option to upgrade their storage.

“It will be interesting to see what the response will be from consumers on the lack of a headphone jack in the new iPhone.”

A 32GB iPhone 7 will cost Dh2,599, while the larger 32GB iPhone 7 Plus will Dh3,099 in Apple’s UAE online store.

Prices on the US Apple store will be Dh2,383 and Dh2,824, respectively, plus any applicable local taxes paid to the state to which the device is shipped.

nhanif@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by John Everington

Published: September 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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