Consumers who have purchased earlier versions of the iPhone from the parallel market can also avail of the services like voice, data and SMS from etisalat as the UAE service provider signed a deal with Apple for the launch of the iPhone 3G.
"Consumers who have purchased previous versions can also avail of the services," said Mark Davis, Programme Director for iPhone at etisalat. "However etisalat will be launching only the latest version."
Consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia will finally be able to obtain iPhone from an authorised source after the signing of a deal between Apple and etisalat.
The latest 3G model will become available on February 15 according to Dow Jones, and etisalat will be targeting private and business users. Both post-paid and prepaid subscribers will be able to use the product and voice, data and SMS services will be available. And the next version of the device, which is due out in June, will be launched in the UAE at the same time.
Until now the iPhone has been available only on the grey market, with buyers having to pay a 20 per cent premium. The device will be available with either eight GB or 16 GB of storage. The eight GB model will be offered in black while the 16 GB one will come in either black or white. And 15,000 applications will available through Apple's iTunes App Store.
"The iQuran application with GPS points to Mecca is popular and we expect it to pick up in the region," added Davis.
Etisalat has been working on the project for two years and finally signed the deal with Apple at the end of 2008. "It is a long process to get approved by Apple as they only want one operator in every country. We passed the test mainly because of our market capitalisation, retail presence and deep pockets and the demographics."
The telecom operator will make the iPhone available in Saudi Arabia through its affiliate Mobily. Etisalat also has affiliates in other parts of the Middle East and Africa. "There will be growth through these affiliates but I cannot comment on when it will happen, though Africa with its large population cannot be ruled out."
Davis expects the Gulf to have the highest concentration of iPhones in the world. "On an average a phone is replaced here every nine months, therefore there is tremendous potential for the iPhone. The iPhone will pick up aggressively in this part of the world."
Etisalat already offers business and consumer services for the BlackBerry range of mobile devices. But Davis does not believe there will be duplication the products have separate markets and attract different types of consumer.
"The BlackBerry was invented for the enterprise segment but has now ventured into the consumer space. The iPhone is a different story as it depends on the user and the kind of applications he wants.
"The BlackBerry was available in the worldwide market for a long time but was officially launched here only in May 2006. The uptake exceeded our expectations and we expect the same for the iPhone."
The Apple device will be available through etisalat retail outlets and business centres. "We have invested heavily in training our staff and have spent four times more than usual. Teams from Apple have come in regularly and spent time with the employees, therefore there was no requirement to hire any new staff."