back to article Russian mobile operators say 'nyet!' to Apple, 'da!' to Samsung

VimpelCom, the last of the "Big Three" Russian mobile carriers to stock the iPhone in its stores, has reportedly discontinued the device, leaving all of Russia with just one retail supplier for Cupertinian kit. Russia is one of the world's largest mobile markets, with over 230 million mobile subscribers, according to research …

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  1. returnmyjedi

    MeganFox

    That's what I read MegaFon as. If only the hugely talented Hollywood actor had such a say over Russia cellular policy...

    1. LarsG
      Meh

      Malware of course

      Not fashion, it's just that they can't get their malware on Apple phones, so it makes sense to change to Android, the malware writers dream.

  2. JDX Gold badge

    Bizarre how much things change from country to country

    1. Arthur 1 Bronze badge

      Makes sense to me. Despite the astronomical wealth of a few, Russia is overall very much a developing country. The ultra high end market Apple wants to live in is pretty tiny in the developing world. Not really news there.

      That and fashion/fads tend not to cross language barriers as efficiently, natch.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: "fashion/fads tend not to cross language barriers as efficiently"

        Well, given that the Iphone is selling for almost a thousand bucks on the retail market (and more on the black market, apparently), I'd say that's one fad that has had no problem with either the language barrier or the country's borders.

      2. Psyx

        "That and fashion/fads tend not to cross language barriers as efficiently, natch."

        Sure they do. Apple is still a high-end brand regardless of personal feelings, no matter where you are.

        It's just that in Russia the grey/black market is much cheaper and more efficient than buying from a legitimate importer that is being reamed by Apple. So that's where people will buy, and the major resellers are right not to try to compete in a losing battle.

        Sound business sense.

        Hell, it's barely worth being an Apple reseller in THIS country when Apple are the competition.

    2. Daniel B.

      Different countries, different markets

      Indeed. That's why I was surprised that the iPhone wasn't a flop, given that during the first 4 years I had seen only three iPhones on the wild, vs. everyone carrying Blackberries, then switching to Android handsets. Even now, Blackberry still has a decent standing; last year it was somewhere around 30%. Nokia smartphones used to be the most used, but thanks to the Elopocalypse that is no longer the case.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Da" to Windows Phone more like. WP market share in Russia is 0.1% behind Apple...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Da" to Windows Phone more like. WP market share in Russia is 0.1% behind Apple

        Hi Eadon, nice to have you back.....

        1. TeeCee Gold badge
          WTF?

          Re: "Da" to Windows Phone more like. WP market share in Russia is 0.1% behind Apple

          Hi Eadon, nice to have you back.....

          I can't imagine Eadon even admitting that's true to himself, let alone mentioning it to others.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Just to decrypt this cryptic message about the 0.1% wp & Nokia is around 8-9% currently with the Lumia. So 0.1% behind apple is probably correct.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    At £600 starting price for an iphone they aren't going to sell many with the average monthly wage being about that in Russia

  4. Anonymous Blowhard

    Logic triumphs over marketing

    So no plans to open an Apple Store on Vulcan?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's because men are men in Russia

    Not many pony-tailed drama queens poncing about over the prettiest toys there.

    They just want the best performance for the lowest price, such as Android, whereas all Apple has ever offered is the exact opposite. They only get away with that in Western countries rich with those types of customers, hence the bootski when trying that shitski over thereski.

    1. Michael Hoffmann

      Re: That's because men are men in Russia

      Actually the pony-tailed drama queens and hipsters I see on Melbourne public transport are also going Android, going by the S3s and S4s. You know, because they all used Android before it was famous. ;)

      Admittedly, I just switched to an S4 myself, although sans pony-tail. It's only been a few months and there's some adjustment. Do have to say I'm not quite convinced - Android feels rougher around the edges, not as well integrated. Very hard to put my finger on it - again, may just be de-programming my brain.

      I don't do the zealotry thing - who knows in a couple of years I'll be back on Apple. Or brain implants (iBrain).

      Some issues I have actually seem to stem from the S4 itself and not Android: I have hands with long fingers and I'm constantly hitting the wrong buttons, and the unit just feels somewhat awkward to me. Something I never encountered with ye old iPhone. YMMV.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's because men are men in Russia

        Odd... I have man sized hands, and I type fine on my S4, I find it much easier to use than an iPhone.... but then again I use the finger sliding to type, very fast!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's because men are men in Russia

        Gone from iPhone to WP to Android and I'm hearing ya. I think the user interfaces are dire on Android.

        WP and iOS are both tailored to the hardware they are on in terms of buttons and display. With Android the button count varies from 0 to 3 on the front of the phone.

        That said, it may be a bit of a mess but there are some useful apps and it's nice to escape the walled garden.

        You still feel like second best after iOS in terms of app support though.

    2. Amorous Cowherder
      Stop

      Re: That's because men are men in Russia

      I have a Samsung so I couldn't care much about Apple, what I do care about is us having customer choice.

      Everyone cheering this as a victory over Apple, well today's underdog quickly becomes tomorrow's hated monopoly.

  6. Paul Shirley

    Winphone just .1% behind iPhone

    Looks like Nokia's move into 'landfill Winphone' is paying off ;)

  7. The Nazz

    What surprises me is

    for a country with a population of some 143m, the number of subscribers seems rather high.

    1. Tapeador

      Re: What surprises me is

      Illegal immigration, dufus. At least according to Nijel Faraj, leader of RKIP.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: What surprises me is

      Heading for over 150% many places.

      But yes 143M is the Population of the Federation.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What surprises me is

      Well Doh!

      All the Russians I know (and am related to) have 2 or even 3 phones.

      One for Personal use (eg Family & Friends)

      One for Business

      One for their Mistress/Dodgy deals/outright criminality operations

      My take on the Apple vs Samsung thing in Russia is that Samsung were more willing to get into bed with the FSB than Apple were. All it takes is a few phone calls from Mr Putins cronies to the telco's hinting that their license may be revoked (or worse, be investigated for corruption) for them to change their mind at the literal drop of a Russian Fur hat.

      Yes, outside places like Moscova and St Pete thr average wage might be pretty low but certainly Moscow is a very expensive place to live even for a Russian. Salaries are a lot closer to western ones these days. Back in the early 1990's we have to make sure that all the deals we did had at least 20% padding for bribes/pension contributions. This is still the case when dealing with many gov depts but can go as high as 50%. They have to find money for all those private jets you know.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What surprises me is

        And here I thought somebody asked for the figures, and Russia gave them the figures for the countires that were part of the former USSR, as well as russia itself.

  8. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Do the prom clothes still fit?

    Apple's surge of innovation in phone tech is gone and it no longer justifies the strict rules for sellers and developers. While others are trying to make phones with the smarts of both an iPhone and a desktop computer, Apple is working on making desktop computers dumber like iPhones. Apple is still celebrating the glory of an event long gone while forgetting to tend to the present.

  9. Thatbloke

    Terms of doing business in Russia

    Perhaps Samsung are more likely to "buy" marketo share than Apple? Not sure if Samsung have lower standards of business ethics but that's important in Russia.

    1. majorursa
      Thumb Down

      Re: Terms of doing business in Russia

      "Not sure if Samsung have lower standards of business ethics but that's important in Russia."

      Apple's business practices are widely seen as unethical and they are even convicted of rigging the ebook market. How low can you go?

  10. Throatwobbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Woah! Hold on there!

    "Other than Apple's online store, the rest of Russia's trade in Apple kit is through the black market,"

    Black market is not the right phrase for the huge number of independent mobile phone shops and online retailers in Russia. Just because they're not official Apple distributors or whatever it doesn't mean they're engaged in any illegal or immoral activity. Grey importing is not a crime.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Woah! Hold on there!

      That is all correct. In theory. In practice the grey imports are quite often fed by hikacking a truck and offloading it in a layby. Though, Apple is so paranoid about their supply security that it usually happens to other guys, not apple.

    2. thechanklybore

      Re: Woah! Hold on there!

      Raymond Luxury-Yacht, you get extra points for the name.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Alice in Pythonland

        thechanklybore: "Raymond Luxury-Yacht, you get extra points for the name."

        No, you're getting Throatwobbler Mangrove confused with someone else. Although Raymond Luxury Yacht's name is *pronounced* "Throatwobbler Mangrove", Throatwobbler Mangrove's name is correctly pronounced "My Hovercraft Is Full Of Gumbys", in a squeal so high-pitched that it can only be heard by dogs.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: Alice in Pythonland

          By sheer coincidence that, in dog language, means "Raymond Luxury-Yacht".......

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    8.4% of Russia's mobile market?

    Can that be right? If it is, there must be some means by which they're all getting them if only one carrier was selling them in the quarter that statistic is from.

    Maybe iPhone sales are done through the Russian mafia, bypassing the even more criminal carriers!

  12. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

    CEO Tim Cook reportedly expressed dismay that 80 per cent of all iPhones are sold through carrier stores, rather than Apple Retail Stores, and suggested that he'd like to see that figure drop to 50 per cent.

    Straw poll: Hands up who didn't get their phone from their carrier?

    The idea of buying the phone direct is an alien concept to most people in Europe, and I don't think the US is much different. Most places where you buy phone and service separately are poor, and can't afford iPhones.

    Fool. He's chasing a higher per-unit margin by throwing away the market.

    - I only know two people who bought their phones from a store of any kind rather than from the carrier.

    One of them only did so because the phone they'd originally got via the carrier got nicked!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

      Pretty sure Finns tend to buy their phones separately.

    2. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

      My current and last phones I bought off ebay..

      Let someone else take the hit.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I agree with Richard 12. Although I have personally bought one or two handsets outside of carrier shops, I can vouch for my friends and most people I know in France who typically go to their carrier shop when they want to change phones.

      And if they want to change carrier, they go to the new carrier shop and make the deal, getting a new phone out of it as well.

      Buying a phone without a carrier contract is not all that common in my relations, although it is not unheard of, given the number of prepaid phone refills on sale next to cashiers desks in every supermarket/gas station.

      So I'm guessing that, in France at least, there is a substantial share of people who go to their carrier for their handset model replacement, and a non-negligeable share of people who buy outside of carrier shops (maybe secondhand as well) and use prepaid SIMMs or something like that.

      Another point that is gaining in importance is the online secondhand market (Ebay, I guess, but Leboncoin is seriously gaining in activity as well). That has to have an impact on carrier sales.

    4. danbi
      WTF?

      Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

      "The idea of buying the phone direct is an alien concept to most people in Europe, and I don't think the US is much different."

      Are you serious?

      I have never, ever purchased a phone from the phone company. Never! And that's for about a dozen phones already. It is always cheaper to buy your phone not from the carrier and not pay their outrageous "subsidy".

      Tim Cook is absolutely correct. Might be, they are already preparing to open few Apple Stores in Russia. When that happens, Samsung & Friends will find it very hard to compete by bribing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

        "Tim Cook is absolutely correct" - there's a phrase you don't hear every day!

      2. Nick Roberts

        Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

        "It is always cheaper to buy your phone not from the carrier and not pay their outrageous "subsidy"."

        Really? I don't think so, at least for the UK. The difference in contract price even over 2 years is less than the price of a high-end phone in my experience, as the carriers appear to take full advantage by not reducing the tariff as much as one might expect. I've worked both ways, and IMHO it's cheaper to get the phone from the carrier, unless you're buying second hand. For me, the only reason to buy separately is to get a phone not available from the carrier.

      3. Peter 48
        Stop

        Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

        you miss the point, simply being readers of El Reg shows we are not representative for the vast masses of existing and potential customers, so our buying habits are pretty much irrelevant. The fact that Apple even introduces new phones by their with-contract price and not their full price shows that purchasing a handset outright is pretty much limited to the budget PAYG segment and quite a rare occurrence. In my entire circle of friends and family I can't think of a single person who would be willing to stump up £500 for a new handset when they have the option of getting it for free with a contract.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

          Well, I`m not your family or friends, and I prefer to pay upfront and get the best SIM-only rate going. So far I am well ahead.

    5. Benjamin 4

      Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

      My previous phone I bought off ebay since I was stuck with an HTC Hero on a ridiculously long contract and just couldn't deal with it any more.

      However when I went to renew my contract (a little while ago now) it was £25 for sim only with unlimited data or £26 for the same deal with an Xperia S. Who wouldn't pay £24 more for a £300 phone? This is why people still buy phones on contract.

      1. Paw Bokenfohr
        Stop

        Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

        Well, the problem there isn't the £1 a month difference your provider offered between its SIM only and Phone Included deals, it's that you didn't look at other options. You can get a SIM only unlimited data / text deal with 500 minutes of calls for £12 now, with no contract at all.

        So that would be a difference of £14 a month, which is of course £336 over the two years of your contract. More than pays for the phone, plus you have the option of selling the phone on ebay in a few months or after a year or so and recouping a lot of the cost and buying a new one rather than being tied to the whims of your provider, who may decide to yank your unlimited data deal or reduce your minutes etc etc whenever they like.

        1. Piro Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Tim Cook seems not to understand the market

          Totally agreed. My monthly tariff is about a tenner. Does everything I need.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A major player here is how Apple treat small to medium resellers.

    Want to sell a punter a macbook pro? You get to buy it from apple at RRP to resell to the customer at RRP.

    Can't see it being that different for iPhones. Regardless of them selling 1 or 1000 they wouldn't make enough money for the exercise to be worth it.

  14. Simon Rockman

    At Mobile World Congress it was clear that the carriers were rounding on Apple, they liked Apple when the phones meant they could get customers to churn like crazy from their rivals but as John Strand has said (in an annoyingly loud way), there has never been any money in it for the carriers. They ran Club Nokia out of town and then welcomed iTunes.

    The operators created the monster that is Apple and are looking to redress the balance. We are now seeing the carriers break the idea that you are locked to your device for two years, and I hazard that it's to churn customers off iPhones. Android, Samsung and Google Play might be far from ideal but if the consumer sentiment (not just those with pony tails) is to move from iPhone 5 to Galaxy S4 the operators will roll with it.

    The Russians won't be the last, particularly if whatever comes next is as meh as the iPhone 5.

  15. Zot

    Has this got anything to do with piracy?

    Could Apple's software walled garden be a contributing factor here? Even just a little bit. Piracy has been reduced in Russia, but I'm not convinced Russians like to pay for software at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Has this got anything to do with piracy?

      For "Russians" substitute "people anywhere".

      The difference is only the degree to which they are prepared to court criminality.

      1. Zot

        Re: Has this got anything to do with piracy?

        I wouldn't say "people anywhere" - that's clearly a justification biased assumption from a guilty person! : )

        I jest.

        It's just that some countries habits stand out in with their sales figures as an indicative tell.

        Money priorities play a massive factor of course, but there are plenty of people and companies that buy software, and appreciate the ongoing efforts of developers to improve it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Has this got anything to do with piracy?

          You are wrong, it was the cynical comment of a software developer who is tired of $[Large BritishCorporate] who thinks we should all work for nothing.

  16. Andy Fletcher

    Desperate times...

    always seem to make vendors believe screwing their own channel partners will get them out of a hole. Don't Apple have anyone with an economics qualification working for them?

  17. Paw Bokenfohr

    Or

    Well, it may hasten the decline of the iPhone in Russia.

    Or.

    It may hasten the switch over from carrier supplied phones with subsidy to people buying their phones outright and not paying for it through the nose forever more in the form of a hiked up monthly charge.

    1. TheVogon
      Mushroom

      Re: Or

      "It may hasten the switch over from carrier supplied phones with subsidy to people buying their phones outright and not paying for it through the nose forever more in the form of a hiked up monthly charge."

      Usually it works out cheaper than buying the phone + airtime + data separately.

    2. LemonadeCellar

      Re: Or

      As far as I'm aware, out carriers don't subsidize phones, they just sell them at full price in their stores. So you're buying it outright regardless, but it might be more convenient to get your phone in a carrier store if you want a SIM card with it.

    3. Daniel B.

      Re: Or

      It may hasten the switch over from carrier supplied phones with subsidy to people buying their phones outright and not paying for it through the nose forever more in the form of a hiked up monthly charge.

      That has always been the case in my country (Mexico), but mostly because most people here are on PAYG schemes. Probably the same reason why the iPhone isn't as hot as well; it's competing on full price, which it seems is the same as in Russia ($800+).

      Few of us are on contracts, I am mostly because I actually use my phone to make calls and it is cheaper that way.

  18. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Hardly surprising really.

    "Apple wants operators to pay them huge money..."

    This is the exact opposite of the Russian business model in which, if you want someone to sell your products in Russia, you have to bribe them.

  19. Only me!
    Devil

    Turn the tables

    How about this.....all the mobile carriers get together and tell Apple they need to promote them as a carrier before the carrier will activate a SIM in an iPhone. TV adds, poster ads, percentage of total sale value (including the mobile contract).

    In Russia they might get away with it depending the political elite.

    Now that would turn the tables.

  20. Ace Rimmer

    "No that banging you hear is not the sound of your engineers building the next, new, world-dominating shiny shiny Mr Cook, it's the sound of an ever increasing number of nails being banged into a coffin marked "Apple"...."

    Forget iWatches and the iPhone 94, they should be pouring every last dollar they have into re-animating Steve Jobs.

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