Digital World: A new, cheaper iPhone - for Egypt, Jordan, but not Israel

Apple leaves out hi-tech power Israel but includes Jordan and Egypt.

iPhone 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
iPhone 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Apple's latest iPhone is going to be rolled out in the US and Europe on July 11, but the company's plans to create a "United Nations" of 79 countries where the phone will be available has left out Israel, while, incredibly, Jordan and Egypt will be included. Beginning next month, Apple will be selling a new, faster, 3G version of the iPhone for less money ($199 for the basic 8 GB version), an enticing offer that seems to leave Israel behind the times. But hold on - it could be that, in this case at least, Apple is actually doing us a favor. True, we may be excluded from the new iPhone party (at least for now), but thanks to the 3G iPhone, the opportunity to get an iPhone device we can actually use - and afford - has never been better. First, the details: The new iPhone is, according to Apple, "twice as fast and half the price." The new version works with 3G networks, provides GPS style maps, lets you work with Microsoft Outlook Exchange servers, and allows users to access the "App Store," the first Apple-sponsored centralized depot of free and for-pay iPhone applications. And, the new device has a 3G radio, allowing streaming radio as part of the built-in applications (courtesy of AOL). The biggest change, of course, is the price: Instead of the $399 it cost until now to buy a device, you can get a more advanced, 3G iPhone for just $199. Why We Can't Buy One Here: After the worldwide success of the iPhone, with millions of the devices being "unofficially" used around the world (the original iPhones were offered only in the US, and later some European countries), Apple got the hint, and has struck deals with cell phone service providers all over the world to sell iPhones and calling plans. It appears that Apple is selling in just about every country where it was able to strike a deal - how else to explain the wide diversity of countries on its list, which include hi-tech "giants" like Cameroon, Burundi, Jamaica, Equatorial Guinea, and Uruguay- as well as Jordan and Egypt? Wouldn't Israelis snap up many more iPhones than Egyptians, Jordanians and Burundians combined!? Israel isn't the only country Apple is skipping: Notably absent from the list are several countries one would have expected see, like South Korea, China, and Thailand. Qatar is in, but Dubai and the UAE aren't. And Russia's not there either. Each country has its own story regarding why its citizens can't get a 3G iPhone with local service, according to a number of Web sites I reviewed (In South Korea, for example, there seems to be a lot of pressure from local cellphone manufacturers Samsung and LG against Apple's inroads among service providers). Israel, too, has a "story" when it comes to its exclusion from the club. Numerous attempts to contact iDigital, Apple's local representative, were not successful, but the reason why the iPhone will not be made available is not hard to guess. Israeli cellphone service providers make a good profit on the devices they sell, not just the service ( Orange currently sells phones that can be considered iPhone competitors - the Nokia n95 and the Blackberry Curve 8310 - for NIS 3,205 and NIS 4,294 respectively. How would it look for them to sell an iPhone for NIS 805 ($199 at the current exchange rate plus 15.5% VAT)? That's cheaper than almost all of the "cheap" phones Orange sells! What to Do If You Want an iPhone Anyway: While many Israelis who have gone abroad over the past year have brought back with them iPhones purchased on their journeys that they unlocked and used with their GSM SIM cards here, that may no longer be an option with the iPhone 3G. The reason the new iPhone is half the price of the old one is because AT&T is subsidizing the price - which means that if you buy a 3G iPhone, you will be required to sign up for a two year calling plan (which, according to many sites, such as, will make it more expensive than the $399 device with a calling plan!). Then there's the issue of the cost - and benefit - of 3G service in Israel (the 3G Internet package for the Blackberry costs NIS 175 a month!). Do you really need 3G anyway? Probably not. If you're looking for a cool replacement phone which will work with your SIM card, the "old" iPhone (which just two weeks ago was the height of cellphone technology!) will do just fine. And the new iPhone means older versions will be available for a cheaper price. If you're traveling in the US this summer, check out an Apple Store and check out one of the now surplus iPhone models, which will probably be on sale beginning in mid-July - and for those who can't make it to an Apple Store, you can be sure there will be a flood of "outdated" iPhones on sites like eBay available for a bargain price, as many current iPhone users with proper AT&T calling plans upgrade to the new model.