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Wednesday, July 09, 2008, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

iPhone frenzy heats up in Switzerland: a view from within

Across Europe, Apple's mobile service partners and mobile phone retail outlets have begun prominent marketing efforts for the new iPhone 3G. Here in Switzerland, mobile phone stores and electronics stores have been selling iPhone accessories for months, despite the fact that nobody has been selling the iPhone itself.

Grey market already flourishing

The lack of official availability hasn't stopped consumers from importing the phone into the country themselves; the weak dollar has made it popular to travel to New York or San Francisco to buy several iPhones and then resell them here, paying for the trip.

In May, daily newspaper 20 Minuten reported that 42,000 iPhones were already in use in Switzerland, citing Swisscom spokesman Carsten Roetz, who said 25,000 iPhones were in use on his company's network, Orange spokeswoman Therese Wenger, who said there were 10,000 iPhones users on her network, and Sevgi Gezici, who reported an additional 7,000 iPhones were in use on the Sunrise network.

Competition to kick into overdrive

Now however, service providers and mobile outlets including Mobilezone are counting down to July 11, when the iPhone 3G will officially go on sale here. Window banners at Mobilezone were promoting the launch with the tagline "Das iPhone, auf das Sie gewartet haben," (the iPhone that you've been waiting for), placed front and center surrounded by more price-oriented advertisements for heavily subsidized Sony Ericsson and Nokia phones.

iPhone in Switzerland


Of the three Swiss mobile providers, Orange and Swisscom will be competing to provide official service for the iPhone 3G. Current iPhones can roam across any of the GSM networks here, although Swisscom typically offers the best coverage. The third network, Sunrise, has limited EDGE service in many areas, forcing the current crops of iPhones to fall back to the even slower GPRS data service when browsing the web or checking email.

Users without an existing plan in another country have to jailbreak the existing iPhone first, which then allows it to work with any SIM card on any provider with full data service apart from the use of Visual Voicemail. Attempts to use that feature are simply transferred to an audio call into standard voicemail. While the iPhone 3G will be tied to either Orange or Swisscom, those 42,000 existing iPhones will continue to work on any provider and the new model will presumably be cracked in short order for users who want to use Sunrise.  

No iPhones: How About an iPod Touch?

Sunrise competes mainly on price, offering cheaper plans and higher subsidies for new phones. While it won't be selling the iPhone 3G, it is already marketing the iPod Touch. In a newspaper advertisement for consumer electronics superstore InterDiscount, Sunrise offered a bundle of the Nokia 2630 and an 8GB iPod Touch, both subsidized into the same service plan for just 49 Swiss Franc ($49 US) upfront.

The curious plan is described as "ohne Grundgebühr" (without basic charge rate plan), but lasts for 24 months and requires a "Mindestverbrauch" (minimum purchase) of 24 Swiss Francs ($24 US) per month throughout the term.

iPhone in Switzerland