Pent-Up Demand

By Reuters  |  Posted 07-10-2008 Print Email

Pent-Up Demand

Investors will be particularly interested in demand in Japan, where consumers have a strong penchant for advanced mobile devices. Some see the plan by Japan's number-three mobile service provider, Softbank, to sell the iPhone as a big threat to market leader NTT DoCoMo as Apple fans were already lining up in Tokyo two days before launch.

But many analysts are skeptical the device will be popular among mainstream customers as it does not support television services or electronic payment features widely used in Japan.

However, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities analyst Shinji Moriyuki said Softbank stores were getting 50 to 100 inquiries a day per store about iPhones, compared with up to 30 a day before the launch of DoCoMo's popular 906i device series.

Research firm Enterbrain said 6.7 percent of 1,200 people it surveyed in Japan wanted to buy an iPhone immediately, while 35.7 percent were interested but undecided.

Even in mainland China, where Apple has announced no carrier deals or official plans to sell the phone, retailers were gearing up to sell gray-market iPhones.

Many carriers are making buyers of subsidized iPhones commit to contracts they cannot break without a penalty, to discourage them from unlocking the phone to work on other networks.

But a merchant on the third floor of the Cybermart mall on Shanghai's posh Huaihai Road said hacking would still happen.

"As soon as we get it from Hong Kong and bring it over and unlock it, you should be able to buy it here by the end of July at the latest," said the vendor, whose surname was Zhang. "The Chinese are very quick at unlocking iPhones."

Apple still gets paid for hacked phones. Whitmore estimated iPhone gross profit margins at more than 50 percent, versus his estimate for iPod margins in the low 30 percent range.

"To the extent it cannibalizes iPod, it's better economically for Apple," he said.

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