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Phone quest chronicles

Published Dec 08, 2011 01:04pm


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Every tech enthusiast dreams of getting his hands on the latest gadget as soon as possible – and I was no different. I wanted to hold an iPhone 4S in my hands; test its awesome camera, and say a few words to Siri. Holding these desires close to my heart, I anxiously waited for the iPhone 4S to hit the local market. But if you don’t already know, the iPhone is one of those Apple products that are not authorised for sale in Pakistan.

Then how do iPhones enter the Pakistani tech market, you may wonder. As you might know, people living abroad have official (and cheaper) access to iPhones. Many among them purchase these iPhones (on contract), use them for a while (some even keep the box to help in their resale), come to Pakistan, and sell them at steep prices. And sadly, people here are so desperate to own these devices that they purchase them without even realising that they’re buying something that originally costs only a fraction of the amount that they’re paying.

The quest begins

When I learned that the new iPhone 4S was available locally, I embarked on a quest to find myself a refurbished piece, and went to a famous technology market in Lahore. The shops, however, had a different story to tell – only a few iPhone 4S units were available, and no used units at all. Upon asking for a used iPhone 4S, all the shopkeepers responded in the same accusatory tone, “the iPhone 4S is the latest in the market, how can it be available as a used unit?” As for the price tag, it was a whopping 100,000 rupees for the 32GB (black), which is available in the US for 299 US dollars with contract (that’s about 26,000 rupees!). I wondered, was it really possible that no one was selling a used iPhone 4S in Lahore? In my naivety, I assumed that everyone had bought factory-unlocked iPhones (which cost almost 850 US dollars a piece) from abroad, and were selling them here without even opening the box. But still, a price-tag of 100,000 rupees is insane for a phone (even an iPhone)! The fact was that local sellers were taking advantage of a novelty; hence, they set a custom price all over the market, regardless of its original price. The same was the case with the iPhone 4 when it was launched; it is now available for as low as 30,000 rupees.

Supply versus demand

When sense finally prevailed, I couldn’t help but doubt the supply chain of the iPhone 4S. You see, when it first came out, the iPhone 4S was what they call a hot cake. Hardcore Apple enthusiasts wanted one, and would’ve gotten one – come what may. Similarly, the sellers knew that new units had more value than used ones, so they simply claimed that they didn’t have any used units, and raised the price of the “sealed” ones.


Fortunately, I personally witnessed the scam at play. So here is what actually happened: the shopkeepers purchased used units of iPhones, and since the original owner had already opened the packaging, the box needed to be resealed. If you ever thought that used products couldn’t come out of sealed boxes – think again! Fake seals are the way to go. Unless you’re an Apple fan and have seen authentic Apple-packaging, you’ll never detect the difference.

Most shopkeepers said they had the brand new iPhone 4S, but in many cases there were no boxes on display. At one shop, I asked to see the box. At first, the shopkeeper hesitated and looked at me as if I was going to pick up the box and run. When I in sisted, he pointed towards the glass showcase. Yes, it was an iPhone box, which he identified as the iPhone 4S, factory unlocked. As an Apple fan-boy, I quickly concluded that it was a resealed box, but to my horror, it wasn’t even an iPhone 4S, let alone a new one. It was an iPhone 4! You should know that the iPhone 4 and the 4S look very similar (except for the two slits on each side of the 4S). Again, I had the benefit of knowing a thing or two about iPhones, unlike many others who may have not been as lucky. It depressed me to think that there were people out there who paid a hundred thousand rupees, thinking they bought a brand new iPhone 4S, but actually got a used iPhone 4 that was available for less than half that amount.

So what can be done to stop this? I believe that only Apple can truly solve this problem. Apple should officially bring the iPhone to Pakistan; and I’m not saying this out of ulterior motives. I say this because on the commercial front, it’s causing a lot of telecom companies to lose out on money, since people often bail out on contracts to resell their units.

A happy ending

Coming back to my quest, did I get the coveted iPhone 4S? You’ll be glad to know that I did, but only out of sheer luck. I stumbled upon a shop where the shopkeeper was selling authentic iPhone 4S units (I write “authentic” only after thorough verification). Needless to say, holding the phone and playing with it was definitely worth the frustrating quest.


Usman Younas wrote this article for the December 2011 issue of Spider magazine.

Disclaimer: Research for this article was conducted when the iPhone 4S was newly released. This article only reflects the author’s personal views, which may or may not apply to the current market scenario.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (41) Closed

anas saleem Dec 08, 2011 12:43pm
I m amazed at the price for i saw iph4s on sale in karachi within a week of its launch and it only costed 80000 ruppees and now the prices have gone down to 60000 now i dont know what makes people go so crazy over iphones but personally i hate em bcuz it is an over rated product when i was buying a galaxy s2 everyone called me a fool for ditching the new improved iphone but i new better and truly now with the tech world testing it to its limits m glad to say that samsung really is the new nokia.....people all around the world have started ditching iphones for other phones and soon the company would be in a state of chaos with mocrosoft in the play the os market is about to get shaky bcuz it holds the maximum no of pc users which in the long run wud be a great thing considering how user frndly windows is,while android with its ice cream sandwich is making a buzz as well giving developers what they want and with it being opensourced it gives creeps like me the freedom to custom mod our devices but ios on the other hand is extremly complicated and has poor security plus with iphones running chipsets that are old and out dated and with low res screens the tech junkies are really not interested in the device its gonna crash down real soon so my advice is that you run to yr local market get yrslf a galaxy s2 and enjoy the real power and next when you plan to buy something just wait till the first wave of crazies have left
Sultan haider Dec 08, 2011 12:44pm
For how much did u get it
Erum Dec 08, 2011 12:46pm
I so want to have an iphone and it is the price that was stopping me..thank you for this article ill now ask my relatives abroad to get it for me!! =D
aku Dec 08, 2011 01:31pm
My dear friend: comparing iPhone with Samsung is like comparing a BMW with a Hyundai. Style does not come cheap, who the cares about the goodies. The goodies are for the kids only. I hope you have grown up since s2 is not cheap either.
Zain Dec 08, 2011 01:47pm
Being a tech-fan, you should try and understand why Apple isn't bringing iPhone 4S to Pakistan. Do we have 3G capabilities, let alone 4G LTE? Is the market big enough? 35% of Pakistan's population lives below the poverty line, and it's elitists like me and you, 1-2% of the population that are actually tech-savvy enough to know how to make one work, or even read what's written on the screen. We do not need to waste more FX on importing stuff that is surplus to our needs.
Imran Dec 08, 2011 02:15pm
I am first time buyer of iphone and I love it though it is expensive but it is worth.Only thing I realize siri is no good for me it does not understand everything what I say understandably my accent.Camera is better than Iphone 4.The browsing is fantastic, super fast and increases productivity.
Abdul Hayee Dec 08, 2011 03:06pm
I agree wit Aku. Apple is almost ten years ahead in technology from any other mobile company being in market. This needs to be admitted.
Usman Dec 08, 2011 03:33pm
Hey guys, glad you all liked the article! Turn to page 97 of this month's issue of Spider Magazine to read a Hands-On review :) (yes, the quest didn't go useless, I finally got an iPhone 4S to play with!)
Navaid Dec 08, 2011 03:48pm
S2 is far better than iphone 4s, the camera of 4s is shaky it has less processor,less ram,no flash support. if u r a siri fan then look out there r many alternatives in android market and last apple is panicking without steve.
Chimera Dec 08, 2011 04:36pm
The iPhone 4S is available in India in the open market from Airtel and Aircell, at a slightly larger price than the model in the USA. Why don't you hop over the border and buy a brand new phone without having to troll the shady stores in Lahore?
Shabbir Ali Dec 08, 2011 04:42pm
Yes offcourse Market and fraudlent people are enjoying at the ignornance of common man. They always consider every individual being ignorant and well aware of the technology. These malpractises must be uprooted with strongest possible manner. Every one of us must try to be well cognisant of the recent developments being unfolded infront of us in this fast moving dynamic world. Rest Apple Co must take necessary steps to undertake fool proof practises for the promotion of its novel products and services.
Sameer Dec 08, 2011 04:55pm
Dear Aku, In case you were not reading the real tech news. Apple and Samsung collaborate on developing these smart phones. So, the real comparison would be between a BMW and Mercedese. One is all about looks, other is about performance and ease. Considering i live in germany, i know these things by experience. Stop reading applie propaganda read the real news written by neutral techies like myself. I own both an iphone and a samsung. This is what real techies do to compare technology. Cheers.
Omar Dec 08, 2011 05:38pm
I live in Europe and recently sent two iphones (4s) to relatives in Pakistan (each 65 K rs). The author should note that breaking contracts abroad can be quite expensive and you would end up using the money you get by selling the phone in Pakistan to pay the penalty of the telecom provider abroad. What is indeed better is to get factory unlocked phones from Apple outlets or the online store (i used the latter).
Shaw Dec 08, 2011 07:13pm
Unless buying in the US, you never buy an iPhone or any other phone without first turning it ON. People who sell their LOCKED iPhone also don't get off cheap. And whoever wrote this article, what was he expecting in a Pakistani tech market; fair play? A factory unlocked iPhone (32G) costs Rs 71,862. It is NEVER a good idea to buy an iPhone previously locked to a carrier, unless you know what custom firmware etc is.
Shaw Dec 08, 2011 07:20pm
Living in Germany means nothing!!! What is the real TECH news? Let me tell you a few things, Samsung makes the best display in the world, Apple makes the most intuitive OS. Now what short comings did you find in iPhone's performance? At least Apple lets you opt out of CARRIER IQ, in Samsung it is embedded at the hardware level. You are confusing Hardware and OS, do some research, I am sure they have those Magazine etc in Germany. Until then just read and keep your opinions to yourself.
Ali Zeeshan Dec 08, 2011 07:29pm
No we didn't like the article, do some research before you come up with such stuff...breaking a contract in US would cost you way more than the ONLY $299!!!
Wamiq Ansari Dec 08, 2011 08:06pm
Why do you want to buy Rs. 100,000 phone and give it away to the guy on the motor bike holding a gun?
Zeeshan Dec 08, 2011 08:19pm
Dodgy dealers are a different issue but you can check the prices for unlocked phones from the Apply UK/Europe websites. If you are getting a new iPhone4S, I do not think it is a lot more expensive that here in London for £599 which is about PKR85,000. Ofcourse, shopkeepers know that it is the rich OR corrupt (or both) who have the deep pockets to buy in Pakistan so they will obviously charge more.
apple Dec 08, 2011 09:08pm
sameer sahab, apple and samsung are in constant legal battle with regards to patent. they are not collaboring on anything. samsung used to be and is a parts supplier for the phone. that is different. come out of your ignorance. regarding the author, this is most ill informed article. the 4s that come with contract at 199,or 299 $ are locked to at&t and if you loose it or replace or break the contract it cost almost as much as no contract phone. plus those locked one cannot be used till now on anyother network unless some o unlocks them.(till now not possible). so the store are not fleecing you even at 100,000. it costs $700 including tax for a 16g 4s in us that is 65000rs min.
Faheem Dec 08, 2011 09:25pm
Samsung only provides the processor for the IPhone. The main advantage of owning an IPhone is the iOS NOT the hardware. Yes, Samsung is giving out more powerful smartphones and Andriod is not a bad OS at all, but people mostly prefer the iOS look and feel and the sleek iphone design.
Enter your name... Dec 08, 2011 09:40pm
the world is advancing in telecom and in internet. Unfortuanately we are lagging behind even our neighbor country India. Though we are ready to purchase latest and expensive mobile phones but there is no use of that becuse we no 3G technology service or wireless broandband internet in urban or ruaral areas to get benefit. Therefore all of persons should demand to start highely upgraded 3G OR 4G service in Pakistan.
Usman Dec 08, 2011 09:41pm
It's nice to hear from people who have been through this. I agree with you. Buying a factory unlocked phone is so much better than buying one on contract and then cancelling the contract by paying a heavy fee. There's another advantage of a factory-unlocked one, it has better resale value (at least in our country, at the moment), provided the owner decides to sell it. And that's how the business is progressing, people buying factory unlocked phones, and selling them here for almost (if not more than) double the original price. Wonder why don't they keep 'em for use. In your case however, your relatives must be using the iPhones now, and that's the right way to go. Unfortunately, not everyone does this. And I, as an enthusiast, wouldn't take such a step either, even though it would result in profit, I'll keep the device, because I like to have the latest and best technology in my possession ;)
anas saleem Dec 08, 2011 10:48pm
If yu want it to impress others then go ahead but if yu want a really awsome phone with power and style then go for galaxy s2 the camera is gr8 the apps awesome n the touch ohhh its like heaven
Asif Dec 08, 2011 11:14pm
Used phones are available because phones returned within 14 days are re-sold by the manufacturer to wholesalers at up to 80% off who in turn sell these to retail customers at a big profit. Kudos to the author for writing a good and informative article.
Raj Dec 08, 2011 11:38pm
Totally agreed, Samsung Galaxy s II has better dispay than iphone 4s.
Aslam Dec 09, 2011 04:50am
Little do you know that the LTE you speak of, the iPhone 4S is not capable of. The only thing it's truly capable of is the "3.5G" on select wireless frequencies (i.e. not all telecom carriers). Cell phone companies prefer to call it 4G. LTE is a different beast that Apple chose not to go with, because they likely want to go with LTE on the next iteration of the iPhone (5?)
freddy Dec 09, 2011 05:36am
$200 is on contract nd if u break contract u hav to pay $399 on att nd verizon ( sprint too) who will break their contract for u ? okay on other hand u need to deposit $500 before if u hav no credit history apple hav started selling unlocked iphone 4s for $650 DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST
imran Dec 09, 2011 07:04am
Hi,this is how happens tooo?? Guy buy phome from comp here in Australia and make insurance for $13 a month,sell that phone in Pak and make black money and return back to Australia and reclaim new one form the provide aganist the insurnace..lolz here uunfor they trust us that we are not chaets???? if you need one from Australia i am comming in Mar 12 and get one for far chaper than in Pak and will not chaet you? just reply to the mail and send me your email so i cant contact you..thanks
Apple Fan Dec 09, 2011 07:05am
These phones are not cheaper in the US. They are subsidized by the phone companies and you have to sign 2 year contracts with hefty penalties on breaking contracts. Carriers in the US charge a lot higher monthly fee than the ones in Pakistan. Does dawn allow posting of articles with such poor research.
imran Dec 09, 2011 07:07am
agree that breaking contract are expensive,until you buy non contract you said dir from Apple outlets....
imran Dec 09, 2011 07:10am
Plz ask your relative to send you the original reciept, if until you trust them:) thanks
Ali Abbas Dec 09, 2011 07:11am
Before I say anything I would like to say that I work in the Cell Phone Industry in the United States. I have been for the past 8 years. I have worked for three major cell phone providers AT&T, T-Mobile and currently Verizon Wireless. I have been through five Iphone launches with both AT&T and Verizon. There are no major differences between the 4 and the 4S. I think this article misinforms the readers. The biggest difference is the dual core processor upgrade, 8 megapixel camera, SIRI and then the CDMA version works on GSM too. The features such as SIRI are useless as it will not work in Pakistan. Going to an 8 megapixel camera is not something important too as if you dont blow the picture up you will not be able to tell the difference. Also in the United States and Europe the phones are not cheap as this article states. The phones are sold at subsidized prices as consumers sign contracts. The 8 gig Iphone costs 200 dollars. To break the contract a customer has to pay a 350 termination fee. The actual price of the phone is 650 dollars. Pakistan retailers open the box to UNLOCK the phone as these phones through the carrier are locked. And all you need to do is to turn the phone over and you can tell if the Iphone is 4 or 4S..
bilal Dec 09, 2011 08:31am
Author needs to understand that here in the US iphone is available for 299 dollars only BUT it comes with a contract. and most contracts sell WEB - 3G ( data plan ) and minutes with the phone. Also one company is selling unlimited messages for 20 dollars. Roughly cost to have premium smart phone is 200 - 300 dollars with monthly contracts running anything between 70 to 100 dollars a MONTH. for atleast 2 years.
Aadil Dec 09, 2011 11:03am
What you forgot to mention is that a customer still has to pay monthly installment on top of the handset purchase price. If you compare it with the call plans we have in Pakistan I'm sure end figure will equate to the same price if not exceed.
unbiased Dec 09, 2011 11:18am
iPhone 4S still cannot perform half the features you can do with other android phones -- i know this by comparing them side by side ..
anas saleem Dec 09, 2011 03:04pm
Mr apple yu surely dont have any idea what android is ....... yu think iphones the best bcuz ppl go gaga after seeing it in yr hand bt if yu vr really a geek and did a lil research yu wud be amazed to know that iphone is junk the future is already here n its s2 just go out buy yrslf one n then be dazzled with the
Usman Dec 09, 2011 04:48pm
As I mentioned, NO unlock is available for a career-locked iPhone 4S, yet... (as of today) A career-locked iPhone 4S in Pakistan is as useless as a paperweight, at the moment.
Usman Dec 09, 2011 04:51pm
Come on! Who on earth would do that instead of just buying a factory unlocked one?
F.K Dec 10, 2011 12:27pm
think the writer needs to do some research. Factory unlocked iphones of every model are available for purchase and use through out the world. You cannot buy a phone locked to atnt and expect it to work in Pakistan if it has the new os in it..its locked..there is no jailbreak available for the new os..not even turbo sim works..iphone 4s comes factory installed with the new my drift yet?
Usman Dec 10, 2011 05:03pm
No article is written without proper research and proof-reading by the publishers. The factory-unlocked issue was mentioned in the article. The cheapest Factory Unlocked 4S costs US$850 (~Rs. 75K for the 32GB black), but the price tag here (at the time of research) was Rs. 100,000. As you might know, the factory-unlocked version works regardless of the carrier, it's fully unlocked. The question was, WHY? Why such a high price tag? Although now, things are getting better, and the sellers are now offering reasonable prices. This article addresses the problems when the iPhone 4S was newly released...
Haroon Jul 06, 2012 06:40am
I agree with Navaid! This is the case. Though I am an Apple fan myself, like the author, but I believe the market is evolving faster and Apple, which was previously driving this market, is falling behind. As much as I love iPhone and iPod and the whole i-series apple products and their fall-in-love sleek, neat, clean designs, smartphones, specially android ones like Samsung Galaxy and HTC are really changing rules of the game. Apple needs to do some thing wondrously amazing to keep up, let alone stay ahead. In fact, you will see how amazing new phones are in this comparison.