A SINGAPOREAN student is making big bucks from the Apple iPhone.
Part-time business IT student Eric Teng has earned S$15,000 (RM35,000) from importing iPhones and reselling them to users in Singapore.
The phone was launched in the United States in July but will not be available in Asia until some time next year.
While other imported cellphones may be used in Singapore without difficulty, the iPhone has to be “unlocked” or “cracked” so that it can be used with local mobile networks.
This is due to Apple’s deal with American telecommunications giant AT&T, which makes the sleek handset usable only on an AT&T network in the United States.
However, fans of the much-awaited iPhone outside the United States are not waiting for the product to hit their shores: An estimated 250,000 sets have been snapped up by foreign buyers.
In Singapore, the number of people with an iPhone is not known although mobile phone enthusiasts estimate the figure to be in the thousands.
Teng, 27, stumbled onto the lucrative business when he first bought an iPhone for his own use in September through a friend in the United States.
Now, his business has helped to pay off half of his study loans.
And the money is still rolling in.
Teng gets his customers online, where he has posted an advertisement for his services, or through referrals by other customers.
He buys the iPhones at the retail price of US$399 (RM1,350) but charges an additional S$300 (RM700) for unlocking the phone and uploading 200 to 300 applications to the phone.
Add to that sum the amount he pays his supplier, and his customers can expect to pay S$1,250 (RM2,900) for a usable iPhone.
Said Teng: “My customers think it’s worth the price because I install applications such as productivity tools and games that cannot be found on the standard iPhone.”
He declined to disclose how he unlocks the iPhone as it is his “trade secret”.
But manuals for activating iPhones can be readily found online.
It usually takes over an hour to unlock the phone.
An Apple spokesman strongly discouraged Singaporeans from installing unlocking programmes on the iPhone as it irreparably damages software.
The spokesman said: “The modified iPhone will likely become permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied software update is installed. Unlocking the phone also voids the warranty.”
The lack of warranty has led some potential buyers, such as student Roger Ng, 18, to steer clear of an unlocked iPhone.
“The void warranty bugs me as there is no way I can get the iPhone repaired if it is spoilt. Why buy it when there is no guarantee that you can use it forever?” he said.
It seems, however, that the warranty issue does not bother many others who are eager to be among the first to own the latest cool gadget.
Comtop Communication in Sim Lim Square receives at least one customer enquiry a day about the iPhone.
A mobile phone reseller in Lucky Plaza, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, said he sells as many as seven iPhones a month.
He said: “The market for the iPhone has been here since Apple released similar gadgets such as the iPod Touch. People feel special when they buy it earlier because no one else has it.” – The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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