Why iPhone 5 may not necessarily work in UAE – and elsewhere

Even as analysts believe that the uninspiring iPhone 5 will still sell more than 10 million units in two months, the device may have to face a different – and bigger – set of challenges as it is set to be marketed in 100 countries across the globe by the end of the year.

Apple, loved by its followers for its user-friendly and ‘wow-designed’ devices, seems to have taken a nerd-turn with its latest offering, in that the iPhone 5’s insides have seen bigger upgrades than its exterior and design elements – something that is not going down too well with its millions of followers.

Still, going by the buzz generated by the most anticipated device in the history of mankind, sheer momentum will help Apple beat the sales record set with the iPhone 4s and race past the 10-million mark in no time. Unless, of course, there are technical issues with the phone.

There might be, actually.

An official of a leading electronics retailer here in Dubai maintains that the just unveiled iPhone 5 may face technical issues in the UAE – and other countries across the world.

In his blog titled ‘Look before you leap: iPhone 5 in the UAE’, Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer at Jacky’s Electronics, which, among other electronics, retails multiple brands of smartphones, including Apple’s, says that “If you’re planning to buy an iPhone 5, whether from the official channels or the grey market, please check the following,” and goes on to raise issues with the LTE and nano-SIM features of the iPhone 5.

LTE, or Long Term Evolution, feature that the iPhone 5 boasts of, will have three variants, equipped to use different sets of frequencies:

Two phones for the GSM family of technologies and one for CDMA, which also includes GSM bands for roaming.

On top of those frequencies, each model includes selected bands for the faster 4G LTE technology, a key selling point of the iPhone 5.

However, the new line-up leaves out two bands – 800MHz and 2.6GHz – that will be critical to LTE service in the region. The UAE’s Etisalat, for instance, has launched LTE on the 2.6 GHz band – currently ignored by Apple iPhone 5.

“Apple is marketing three different versions of the iPhone based on three different LTE frequencies. Not all the frequencies work in the UAE,” says Panjabi. “Etisalat works on a GSM frequency of 1,800 to 2,600 MHz. If you plan on traveling a lot, check also if the countries travel to are on the same frequency,” he suggests, adding that “the LTE network infrastructure in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for example, are different.”

Emirates 24|7 checked Apple’s website to see if all of the LTE features that the iPhone 5 supports will be available in the UAE. No surprises – many of them won’t be.

Among the ones we found particularly frustrating are: Maps (Directions, Turn-by-Turn navigation, 3D buildings, Traffic, Local search, Business reviews and photos); Siri (Sports, Twitter integration, Facebook integration, Local search, Restaurant information, reviews and reservation, Movie information, reviews and showtimes), iTunes Store (Music, movies and TV shows), and Dictation.
None of them will be available in the UAE. Period.

Then there’d the additional issue of the nano-SIM. Are UAE carriers Etisalat and Du – and a host of other carriers across the region and indeed the world – ready with nano-SIM support? As Panjabi puts it:

“This is a smaller SIM card than the current Micro SIM you get in the iPhone 4S. As of date, both carriers in the UAE have said their phones don’t have Nano SIMs readily available though we suspect this will roll-out shortly.”

So even if you buy one in the grey market, what use will it be if you can’t connect to the Internet or, worse, make phone calls with your new phone? Concludes Panjabi: “There’s no fun in having a new toy that you can’t play with, so proceed with caution and remember, not every seller of an iPhone 5 on the grey market is going to have a device that works here necessarily.” Ho-hum.


And Apple's new iPhone is called the... iPhone5, iPhone4G, iPhone5.2…



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