It was widely reported today that Apple will begin selling iPhones in Russia through agreements with at least two of the country's top three carriers. Apple might be better off settling for its current black market sales figures, which one report has at about 20,000 units a month.
Because Apple could easily end like BP, which is seeing its multi-billion dollar oil venture with Russia's TNK go straight into the tank thanks to a Putin-led government masquerading as friendly to Western corporations and amenable to free-market capitalism. It is not.
So shipping phones COD and demanding cash should not be a problem if Apple does go ahead with its plans with MegaFon and Vimplecom; Russians appear to have plenty of disposable income. The iPhone 3G currently sells for about US$1,000 a pop plus another $100 to unlock it for use in the country. It's estimated that about half a million earlier iPhones have already been sold there.
Not content with that, Apple is also reportedly in talks with Mobile TeleSystems, Russia's largest mobile telecom, which according to reports expects to sell about a million units in two years. That same report said that if all three companies reach agreements with Apple, about 3.5 million units could move in that time. Authorized iPhone sales in Russia will begin in October. Not much information is available about any of the deals. For example, it is not known if any of the Russian carriers will defer the iPhone's cost with subsidies, as AT&T does in the U.S.