Apple may be selling the iPhone 5 only in black and white but in Calcutta it is available in 50 shades of grey.
As the latest from the world’s biggest tech company goes about breaking sales records abroad, unlocked versions of the smartphone are being sold without bills across the city, SIM card cut to size by hand, warranty be damned.
The brag value of flaunting the sixth generation iPhone has made it more expensive than bling in the grey market.
A 22-year-old city entrepreneur who does not want to be named bought his iPhone 5 at Fancy Market in Kidderpore for Rs 1 lakh, two days after it became available in US stores on September 21.
“The thrill of being among the first in the world to own the iPhone 5 is incredible,” said the youth.
Holding on till the phone’s launch in India was not an option for him despite the buzz of a pre-Diwali unveiling since Apple has not said a word on the matter. The California company’s track record does not inspire confidence: the iPhone 4S came to India about a month and a half after the US but the iPhone 4 made desi fans twiddle their thumbs for a year and iPhone 3GS for nine months.
Many others have chosen not to wait, especially with the grey market price of the basic 16GB iPhone 5 dropping since its US entry to Rs 62,000, which is Rs 17,500 more than the official price of the iPhone 4S basic 8GB model.
“We sold eight iPhone 5s in the first week and the demand seems to be growing with the festival season approaching,” said Nadeem, who owns a store in Kidderpore.
The expansion of the grey market — the iPhone 5 is available not just in Kidderpore and Chandni Chowk but also on Lansdowne Road and in Gariahat — has helped the drop in price.
“Our flat rate is Rs 62,000. It’s the cheapest you can get in Calcutta,” said the owner of a shop on Sarat Bose Road, which is selling “at least one iPhone 5 daily”.
“The very fact that the iPhones have just a three per cent share of the Indian cell phone market gives it tremendous niche value. Owning one elevates you to an exclusive league,” was how tech entrepreneur Shabbir Akhtar explained the rush for the smartphone when handsets with similar, if not better, features by other companies are available in the city.
Buying the iPhone 5 in the grey market has drawbacks though. If lack of warranty is the biggest hurdle, procuring a nano-SIM card — a SIM card smaller than the regular one that service providers in India do not provide — is the biggest headache even for those who have relatives and friends abroad to get them the iPhone 5 through legal channels.
Here too, the city grey market has come to the impatient enthusiast’s rescue. “We have trained people to cut regular SIM cards to nano-SIM size for Rs 1,200,” said the owner of a Fancy Market store selling the iPhone 5.
Official Apple outlets in the city are, however, not losing sleep.
“More than 100 customers have already registered their names with us for iPhone 5. Some even offered to pay an advance,” said the manager of iStore, the Apple retailer on Park Street, which sells about five iPhone 4S models every day.
Soham Sengupta, who uses an iPhone 4S, is among those who might show up at the store when the iPhone 5 officially makes it to India. “Being an iPhone user, it is very tempting to get the new one but I will wait for a few more days,” said the final-year MBBS student.
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