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Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 02:52 pm PT (05:52 pm ET)

Apple sold 1.6M iPhones in Russia during 2013 as big telecoms resumed sales, report says

After persuading major Russian cellular providers to sign on as partner carriers, Apple's iPhone sales doubled in 2013 to some 1.57 million units.

iPhone


Despite not being available on three of Russia's largest carriers for the first half of 2013, market research firm IDC said Apple's iPhone sales in the region doubled to 1.57 million units last year, reports Bloomberg. Now the telcos are jumping on the iPhone bandwagon, adding to Apple's presence in the country.

According to the publication, Russian providers MegaFon, Mobile TeleSystems and VimpelCom were not willing to agree to Apple's partner carrier requirements, which call for iPhone promotion, handset subsidies and minimum sales agreements. It should be noted that market leader MTS purchases its iPhone stock from a third-party distributor, leaving it without an official Apple deal.

While Apple holds cellular providers in the U.S. and other countries up to the same standards, Russian law prohibits telecoms from discounting devices in return for contracts. It is unclear how the laws applied to Apple's terms, but the three largest carriers were loath to take on the burden until midyear.

For the first half of 2013, Apple avoided the carriers altogether by distributing iPhones through major electronics stores. Russian independent analyst Eldar Murtazin estimates retailer Svyaznoy moved roughly 700,000 units last year.

It appears that Russia's carriers took notice of the brisk sales, with MegaFon re-signing its contract with Apple in December after being iPhone-less for three years. Mobile TeleSystems and VimpelCom also resumed iPhone sales in October.

Murtazin went on to say that most handsets sold were cheaper iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models, though that trend may change with the rekindled carrier partnerships.

Apple is looking to break into emerging markets and Russia is the last of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries in which the company does not have a major stake. In January, Reuters reported Apple's iPhone held a 9 percent share of the overall Russian smartphone market, but accounted for 20 percent of revenues.