These days, you can walk into any of the big national mobile carriers and walk out with an iPhone. But, as Fortune reports, things are quite different in Russia. The country’s three largest wireless companies – MTS, VimpelCom (through its Beeline brand), and MegaFon – now refuse to stock the devices, instead pointing customers to comparable Android or Windows Phone handsets.
So is this some sort of anti-Apple conspiracy? Not quite – It’s all about dollars and cents. Under the country’s mobile phone licensing guidelines, carriers cannot offer the same type of subsidized pricing that the U.S. and Europe are used to. Combine that with steep import charges and taxes and the iPhone quickly becomes extremely unaffordable.
Even if you don’t take carrier subsidization into account, Apple’s smartphone costs quite a bit more for those living in Russia. For example, while you can score an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5 for $649 in the U.S., that same device will set you back the equivalent of $928 in Russia.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find an iPhone in Russia; Apple recently launched a Russian version of its online store last month, and the rumor mill points to brick and mortar Apple Store retailers popping up before the 2014 hits.