Russia’s second-largest carrier now resuming iPhone sales after 3-year hiatus

iPhone 5S (gold, two-up, left angled)

Good news for Apple fans in Russia: the country’s second-largest wireless carrier has now resumed iPhone sales in the 143 million people market. MegaFon stopped selling the iconic smartphone three years ago, in 2010, citing Apple’s rather stringent sales policy and volume requirements.

The company hadn’t offered the device for three years. Fortunately, the two sides have now come to senses as Apple appears to have softened its stance after seeing its smartphone share in Russia drop to single-digits…

Bloomberg confirmed with Megafon that the carrier has in fact signed a three-year contract with Apple. Megafon wasn’t alone in its opposition to Apple: as of the middle of 2013, none of Russia’s three largest carriers sold iPhones in their retail outlets.

MTS and Vimplecom dropped the iPhone in 2012 citing “harsh conditions”. This prompted Apple to offer some concessions so in turn the two firms resumed iPhone sales two years later, in October 2013.

Vimplecom, which owns Russia’s No. 3 carrier Beeline, officially signed a new iPhone contract with Apple and MTS is using a distributor to sell the Apple smartphone. Subscribers of MegaFon and MTS will be able to use 4G LTE network on their iPhone 5s/5с, the companies have announced.

Apple is known for blocking its devices from working on certain operators’ LTE networks if the company is unhappy with the coverage quality of the operator.

According to Bloomberg:

In September, Apple changed its sales policy in Russia from distributing iPhones only via telecom operators and started selling devices through computer wholesalers Merlion and DiHouse. 

As of June, the Moscow headquartered MegaFon served 62.1 million subscribers in Russia and an additional 1.6 million in Tajikistan, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The carrier is controlled by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov and part-owned by Sweden’s TeliaSonera AB.

The iPhone remains out of reach for the vast majority of cash-strapped consumers in Russia so little wonder that Android cheapos have reduced Apple’s smartphone share in Russia to an estimated nine percent without breaking a sweat.