Russian operators turn their backs on Apple's iPhone

Russia's mobile operators are showing Apple the door and favouring smartphones based on Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone operating systems, according to various media reports, although the reports differ on whether all three operators or just two are phasing out the iPhone.

Russian operators have turned away from Apple's iPhone.

According to reports by CNN's Fortune Tech and Rethink Wireless, VimpelCom is the third operator to sever its ties with Apple, following in the footsteps of MTS and MegaFon. However, VimpelCom has told Telecoms.com that it will continue to sell Apple's handsets, although it did not confirm whether the initial reports had been wrong or that it had changed its mind.

Nonetheless, the reports do highlight a growing disenchantment with Apple among mobile operators over the device manufacturer's strict conditions for distribution partnerships. Previously, the iPhone was a must-have device for operators, but there are indications that the tide may be starting to turn.

This has not been helped by the LTE requirements of the iPhone 5; not only does the latest device not support all LTE frequencies in Europe but reports have indicated operators also must pass an Apple LTE network test before being allowed to market the device. It appears that none of the Russian operators are currently permitted to sell the LTE-capable iPhone 5.

Indeed, the European Commission recently sent a survey to mobile operators in order to determine whether Apple's sales tactics for the iPhone in Europe are shutting out smartphone rivals, although the Commission is also reported to have launched a similar probe into Google's Android tactics.

MTS has previously said that Apple would have to provide better terms as Windows Phones-based smartphones are gaining in popularity. Russia's largest mobile operator stopped selling the latest iPhone models at the end of 2012, CEO Andrei Dubovskov told Bloomberg in a recent interview.

Windows Phone accounted for 8.2 per cent of smartphones sold in Russia in the first quarter, or 315,000, compared with 5.1 per cent a year earlier, while Apple's market share dropped to 8.3 per cent from 9 per cent, according to research firm IDC.

For more:
- see this Fortune Tech article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Rethink Wireless article
- see this Telecoms.com article

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