The handsets are already sold out
Bangladesh now has another 5G enabled smartphone after the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra: the iPhone 12, which was rolled out this month by way of Apple’s authorised resellers Union Group and Executive Machines.
The price of the 64GB iPhone12 is Tk 1.18 lakh, the 128GB Tk 1.25 lakh and the 256GB Tk 1.37 lakh, while the128GB iPhone12 Pro is available for Tk 1.47 lakh.
In the US, the iPhone 12 64GB variant costs $799 and the Pro $999, meaning Bangladeshi consumers have to pay quite the premium to have the highly coveted handsets in their hands.
Despite the lofty prices, the iPhone 12 models, which made their debut on October 23 and November 13 respectively globally, were hotly anticipated and are in high demand, both the resellers told Dhaka Tribune.
But the supply from Apple is restricted due to the ongoing pandemic, they said.
Apple usually unveils new iPhone models in mid-September and begins selling them before the end of the month. To do so, it usually ramps up mass-production in the early summer, building up inventory around August.
This year, while Apple still built some of the new phones in the July-to-September period, the mass-production ramp-up slid back by about a month, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Apple has slashed the number of handsets that it plans to make in the second half of this year by as much as 20 per cent, the WSJ report added.
In Bangladesh, those who pre-ordered the handsets received them, but more stock would be available very soon.
“Despite being in huge demand, we only got 700 iPhone 12 handsets, which is roughly 20 per cent of the demand,” said Abdul Motin, a director of Executive Machines.
Such is the demand that Executive Machines would be able to sell as many units as Apple can allocate to the reseller, he said, adding that the 57 per cent import duty accounts for the higher iPhone prices in Bangladesh.
Another popular handset retailer, Gadget and Gear, also began selling iPhone 12 from last week.
"We can see a lot of unofficial and illegal iPhone12 Pro and Pro Max models in the market, which differs from the official price by 30-40 per cent," said Nure Alam Shimu, managing director of Gadget and Gear.
Gadget and Gear would be able to bring in more units of the flagship Apple smartphone in January, he added.
The iPhone 12’s success is in stark contrast to the success of the Samsung Galaxy Note20, which was rolled out earlier in August.
The phone retails at Tk 1.35 lakh and coupled with the unavailability of 5G network hence has found very few takers, according to sellers.
“It is an expensive handset. People just come and check it out and then leave. We get very few customers for this phone,” said Nahid Sheikh, a sales advisor at a Samsung store in the capital’s Bashundhara City Shopping Complex.
The store sells 5-8 units of the Samsung 5G handset in a month.
But the availability of 5G-enabled handsets on the cheap is crucial for the planned 5G roll-out in early 2022. Or else, there is not much of a business case for mobile operators to undertake the massive investment needed for the rollout.
One of the primary reasons why both the 3G and 4G services failed to take off in a big way commercially was the low penetration of compatible handsets when those technologies were rolled out in Bangladesh.
And in case of 5G, the handset penetration at less than 0.1 per cent is worse than the other two technology when the mobile operators were gearing up to roll them out.