Three operators control 80% of the Russian mobile telecoms space, and they’ve all given up on the iPhone. What exactly do I mean by that? They’re no longer going to sell the iPhone to their customers directly. Why? Many reasons, but three immediately spring to mind.
One, subsidies are illegal in Russia. Yes, you read that right, people in Russia have to pay for their phones up front. So why would you buy an iPhone from your operator when you can go to Apple’s website and buy it straight from there?
Which brings me to reason number two, high prices. If you buy an iPhone in Russia via a legal channel, you’re going to be paying a lot in taxes. According to Fortune, a Russian iPhone is almost $300 more expensive than an equivalent iPhone in the United States. So where do you buy your iPhone then? The gray market, meaning iPhones secretly imported from other countries where taxes are lower.
And finally, the last reason, Apple is a hard ass. If you want to sell the iPhone, you have to agree to buy a certain amount of units in any given year, you have to advertise the iPhone the way Apple wants you to advertise the iPhone, and the whole process is controlled to such a degree that it hurts the bottom line.
So if you’re a Russian reading this, what do you do? Best advice I can give you is to take the train from St. Petersburg to Helsinki and get your iPhone there. Easy.