MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED: 5:20 PM) The two major telecommunications firms in the country have announced carrier availability of one of the hottest gadgets released this year — Apple’s iPhone 4S, which was announced just a day before the company’s founder, Steve Jobs, passed away in October.
In a Facebook status update, Globe Telecom Corporate Communications Manager Yoly Crisanto announced the iPhone 4S’s availability with the telco, saying: “iPhone 4S in the Philippines, still with Globe!”
However, with Smart Communications, its chief rival, saying it will also carry Apple’s newest mobile device, months of speculation has been confirmed: that Globe has indeed lost the exclusive rights to distribute the iPhone in the country, an advantage it held for a few years.
Smart likewise reiterated this in an update on its official Facebook page on Friday: “Here’s the news that you’ve been waiting for: Smart will offer the iPhone 4S starting December 16 across Smart stores nationwide,” it said.
Both telcos have already set up pre-order pages for the iPhone 4S, even though the Ayala-led telecom has not yet announced when exactly it is planning to announce the official availability of the units.
In an earlier report, InterAksyon.com uncovered a leaked page from the Globe website, indicating that they will only be taking 100 pre-order requests of the new iPhone. The limit, however, was not specified in its pre-order page.
Both telcos did not announce any pricing plan for the new Apple smartphone, although previous iPhone iterations have been available for free on Globe’s Plan 3799. It remains to be seen, however, if telcos will offer the iPhone 3GS for free on lower-tier plans, just as in the US.
Meanwhile, a representative from Smart has confirmed with InterAksyon.com that the iPhone 4S’s most compelling new feature – the intuitive voice assistant Siri – will function properly in the Philippines.
In addition, InterAksyon.com was informed that Sun Cellular will also offer the iPhone 4S to their postpaid subscribers soon, this according to Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), Smart’s parent firm.
On his part, PLDT Board Member and TV5 President Ray C. Espinosa said: “When this happens, this will make us the undisputed leader in postpaid subscriptions.”
InterAksyon.com is the online news portal of TV5.
PLDT had earlier entered into a share-swap deal with the Gokongwei family to sell its interest in Digitel, which operates Sun Cellular, to the phone giant.
It will be remembered that early adopters of the phone had to grapple with functionality problems outside US territory, where Siri insists that it couldn’t look for or recommend locations outside the US.
The availability of the iPhone 4S under two carriers follows the trend Apple has set in the US and other territories, where competitors such as Verizon and Sprint were given the rights to officially carry the phone, breaking Apple’s exclusivity deal with telecom giant AT&T.
For the years that it was only available on AT&T, iPhone users had to grapple with an unstable network plagued with data traffic congestion and, more prominently, a disappearing signal act when one holds the phone a certain way, dubbed by critics as the “iPhone death grip.”
The death grip has not been observed by users in the Philippines, although Globe had a number of run-ins with iPhone users racking up huge charges on their phone bills due to unintended data connections, a phenomenon that many have come to know as “bill shock.”
Bill shock also became the subject of a Congress investigation due to mounting complaints from iPhone users–one of them ICT Committee Chair and Taguig Rep. Sigfrido Tinga – who ended up with thousands of pesos on their phone bills.
Crisanto, however, denied that the company didn’t have measures to prevent such things from happening, saying the units of some of those who complained did not officially come from Globe.
The telco decided to address the issue by reminding users how take control of data connections of their phones to prevent unnecessary Internet connections, and incurring unintended charges for it.
(With additional report from Llewelyn Sanchez)