After two-year delay, Apple's iPhone officially hits shelves in Israel
iPhone officially launched in Israel at midnight Wednesday, with a party set to last through the night.
After two years of delays, and thousands of purchases of "jailbroken" and "unlocked" models from abroad, iPhone will officially launched in Israel at midnight Wednesday, with a party set to last through the night.
The Apple gadget will be sold in Israel via mobile operators Cellcom and Pelephone, who will host the celebrations together with local Apple importer iDigital.
The festivities were scheduled to start Wednesday evening and go on until morning, but sales of the phone only began a minute after midnight, as Apple only approved iPhone sales in Israel as of December 10.
But to get the phones from the two companies, buyers will have to go to the appropriate sales points, set up especially for the event: Cellcom at the Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, or Pelephone at the Ayalon Mall in Ramat Gan.
The iDigital store in Ramat Aviv also planned to sell the phones on Wednesday night. The companies involved declined to comment, and the price has yet to be revealed.
Despite the lack of availability in Israel, tech-obsessed locals have been using iPhones for years, thanks to the phone's hackability.
There are currently an estimated 100,000 iPhones in operation in Israel - all imported illegally.
Israeli phone shops have also cashed in on the phenomenon, with many offering an installation service that will add Hebrew to the iPhone, even though the language was not on the official list supported by the device.
Meanwhile, the Communications Ministry has not been issuing commercial licenses to import iPhones concurrently, large cellular phone importers have complained.
The importers say they have been trying to obtain a license for more than a year; their applications have been denied.
"The Communication Ministry's principal objection is that the iPhone does not meet European standards," says one importer. "Even though the iPhone does meet the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's standard, the argument does not satisfy the Communications Ministry.
Rampal was granted a license to import the device in March 2008, but the company managed to sell only 600 of the coveted devices before imports were suspended, apparently because of legal difficulties arising from the need to unlock the instruments.
But importers say that, technically speaking, they should be able to import unlocked iPhones (as the cellular service operators do) with Hebrew-language capability installed by Apple. They could also reach a repair arrangement with a certified laboratory.