Singapore carriers working on iPhone 4S mod to remove cameras for servicemen

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Wireless operators in Singapore are preparing to launch a modified iPhone 4S device with its cameras removed in an effort to market the device to military personnel who are not allowed to bring camera-equipped smartphones to army camps.

Rumors have swirled for some time that carriers in Singapore, which requires 24 months of military service from male citizens between the ages of 18 and 21, would release an iPhone model that stripped the handset of both its cameras. M1, one of Singapore's three major wireless operators, confirmed work on a "Non Camera" iPhone 4S last week when it temporarily posted product pages for the modified device, as noted by CNet Asia (via The Verge).

According to M1's product listing, the device would sell for S$49 ($38) more than its camera-equipped counterpart. Depending on the monthly plan chosen with a two-year contract, the no-camera iPhone 4S was listed as selling for between S$49 and S$679.

The iPhone 4S first arrived in Singapore last October as part of Apple's fastest international rollout of its handset.

After the listings were pulled, a spokesman for M1 responded to press inquiries by saying that the link had been removed while the company made "some adjustments to this service.'"

A source for CNet Asia claimed last fall that Singapore's Ministry of Defence was talking to one of the country's carriers to "offer a camera removal service for smartphones," though it's not clear whether M1 was the carrier in question. However, negotiations for the service reportedly broke down because the carriers were unwilling to provide a one-year warranty to replace the manufacturer's warranty that would be voided during the camera removal.

After a year-long review of the matter, the Ministry recently ruled that servicemen can use smartphones on base, provided they have a certificates proving that a local carrier modified the device to remove its cameras.

JakartaGlobe recently reported that all three telcos in Singapore will soon sell the modified iPhone 4S. The other two carriers, Singtel and Starhub, did say they were in talks with the Ministry of Defence to offer camera-less smartphones, but declined to say whether they would release a modified iPhone.

Though camera-less iPhone sales to military personnel would only represent a small portion of Apple's worldwide figures, the move could help the company further embed itself within the market by allowing young servicemen to either gain early exposure to the device or stay loyal to the brand. Some reports claim Apple's iPhone has reached more than 50 percent market share in Singapore, which has a population of roughly 5 million.

A survey of Asian consumers released last November showed that 38 percent of respondents indicated plans to purchase an iPhone and identified the region as Apple's biggest worldwide opportunity for the handset.

Apple is expected to report blowout iPhone sales next Tuesday when it announces its results for the December quarter. Wall Street consensus for the company stands at an estimated 29.74 million units during the period.


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