Singapore Gets IPhone, but No Visual Voicemail or ITunes

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Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) will start sales of Apple's iPhone 3G handset at midnight tonight local time but users who buy the phones won't get support for visual voicemail or access to videos and music sold on the iTunes Store.

"On launch, customers will not be able to buy content from the iTunes store. However, they will be able to buy applications from the Apple application store," SingTel said, adding that visual voicemail will not be offered in Singapore.

The iPhone 3G will be available for free to Singaporean customers who sign a two-year contract that costs S$205 (US$145) per month, including 1,500 minutes of outgoing talk time and 3G bytes of data access. The cheapest plan for new subscribers costs S$348 for the 8G-byte iPhone 3G and S$508 for the 16G-byte model, and requires them to sign a two-year contract that costs S$56 per month and includes 200 minutes of outgoing talk time and 1G byte of data.

The operator did not offer an explanation for why visual voicemail, one of the iPhone 3G's standout features, will not be offered. A Singaporean version of the iTunes Store has never been offered by Apple despite the popularity of the iPod and other products here, likely a reflection of the Southeast Asian city-state's small population of 4.5 million people.

The iPhone 3G handsets that will go on sale in Singapore appear to be unlocked, and could be used with networks belonging to other local operators. "It may work but you may not enjoy the same iPhone experience as SingTel only supports iPhone 3G devices that are connected to SingTel's network," the operator said, without specifying what specific advantage its own network will offer over others.

Although the iPhone 3G is already available in 22 countries, SingTel hopes to recreate the media attention that followed the handset's July launch in the U.S. An invitation sent out to reporters invited them to a "special launch ceremony," to be held at midnight tonight and attended by the operator's top executives, that will include the first local sale of an iPhone 3G.

Such ceremonies have become a common occurrence when the iPhone 3G is launched, being repeated in several different markets where these events brought out local Apple enthusiasts as well as media.

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