Right now there are 5 to 6 million iPhones in Iran. But with the new initiative from the government to ban the use of unregistered mobile phones, we might no longer see any new iPhones in the hands of Iranians.
You might think that Iran is not a big market for apple or other American brands but think again. There are 40 million smartphones in the hands of Iranians right now, the population is really young to the point that half of the country’s population are under 30 years old. Not to mention that Iranians are really tech-savvy and in love with gadgets.Iranians want to have the most advanced gadgets in their hands, and the 5 to 6 million iPhones in the country indicates this trend amongst the youth and the older generation.
Apple has a great market in the country. You just have to walk on the streets of Tehran to see iPhones in the hands of people. There are tons of fake Apple Stores (with original products) all over the city and they have literally every apple product available out there in the west. Keep in mind that there are no legal distribution channels or any official channel to Apple itself to bring in the Apple products in the country. Last year The Wall Street Journal reported that senior Apple executives had met with Iranian distributors at its London headquarters, but apparently, there were no solutions to establish an official channel for the distribution of Apple products as the U.S. sanctions wouldn’t allow it yet for apple to enter Iran’s market.
iPhones being banned in the country
First Method: Registration of all the smartphones
With the new regulation in place which is going through its beta phase, all the smartphones in the country should be imported legally. Right now many smartphones brands especially those which don’t have an official distributor in the country are being imported illegally without paying any duties or taxes. One of the major brands which have a good market here in Iran is Apple of course. This week we had some Apple shops closed down by the police because of the illegal import of Apple products especially iPhones. Even the police recently closed down some of the shops and seized some of iPhone shipments. The shops also objected to this action by closing down their shops. Even the iPhones in some of the biggest shopping websites continue to see stock-outs.
Second Method: Smartphone registration by mobile operators
With the second method government can make sure that even if these smartphones somehow bootlegged into the country, they wouldn’t be working with the Iranian mobile operators. Every smartphone has a unique ID named IMEI, and every SIM card has its own unique serial number. By combining these two numbers, operators can produce a unique ID which is really hard to clone. With this ID which would be calculated for each SIM card along with the smartphone IMEI, operators can make sure that a cell phone is imported legally since they have the IMEI of every legally imported smartphone via the official channel. This initiative would continue its pilot phase and after that, it would be officially executed.
The interesting part is that the government tried to do this nearly 10 years ago only with IMEI which is easy to clone and the initiative failed. But with 20 months of research for this new method, we guess that this time, they would put an end to illegal import of smartphones in the country which has nearly 286 million dollars black market. The fate of Apple in Iran would depend on the company to have an official distributor in the country at least for the iPhones which are not being imported into the country legally.