Apple’s iPhone Thrives in Southeast Asia’s Underground Market


photo credit: Erik Hartberg

A cottage industry is emerging in Southeast Asia that addresses the need for a cheaper, lower-end version of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. The company has consistently faced criticism for it’s focus on high-end pricing, a strategy that has largely ignored a huge, untapped market for the tech giant. But that hasn’t stopped so-called “budget iPhones” from developing organically, reports

Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia are all countries which are part of a massive emerging market for smartphones, a market that has been left largely unaddressed. Phones in Southeast Asian countries are largely unsubsidized by carriers and the prohibitive cost of the phones has inspired a creative industry in which customers buy used or refurbished iPhones from unofficial Apple shops. Often the “Apple shops” aren’t much more than a tiny kiosk in a busy mall, but they are becoming fairly ubiquitous, seemingly popping up everywhere across Southeast Asia; the spread of the little stores has encouraged the spread of iPhones to a new group of consumers who want but can’t afford the higher end Apple products.

One thing’s for sure; the trade in used smartphones is buzzing, and for good reason when comparing prices. A refurbished iPhone 4 sells for around 4,000 THB (Thai Baht), or around $120. An iPhone 5S retails for a whopping 23,900 THB, which is about $720. Even older devices, such as the iPhone 3G, still retain their popularity years after they’ve been replaced by newer models.