iPhone 4 Arrives in UAE -- Without FaceTime

iPhone 4 is officially on sale in the U.A.E., although apparently with FaceTime disabled. Still, demand is expected to outstrip supply as both distributors, du and Etisalat, have said that they have a limited supply of iPhone 4s in their stores.

Potential customers learned about the details of prices and plans only two days ago.

One of the iPhone carriers in the U.A.E. has through their Twitter account confirmed that FaceTime is disabled on iPhone 4 smartphones going on sale in the country today.

A number of tweets posted on the official Twitter account of du, one of the two official iPhone suppliers in the U.A.E. states: "Unfortunately not! Facetime feature won't be available in all iPhone 4 models in the UAE."

And: "There's little we can do about it, but we'll keep you posted in case of further updates."

Range of Plan Options

Du offers the 16GB iPhone 4 for AED 2,449 (US$666) and the 32GB model for AED 2,849 (US$775). Customers then have a range of options for plans, including different amounts of voice minutes, SMS and data. They also offer a pre-paid option, Pay-as-you-go, where there is no commitment for customers after buying the iPhone.

Etisalat has no pre-paid option at this time just saying they will unveil it "soon." In contrast to du they offer iPhone 4 on a 12-month contract by which customers can pay different amounts for the device up-front. The up-front cost varies from zero to AED 2,399 and each option comes with a different monthly cost and different amounts of voice minutes, SMS and data. Basically, customers who are willing to pay more per month over the year will get cheaper up-front cost.

Customers who are on existing iPhone plans with du will have to buy a new iPhone 4 as there is no way to transfer a plan. Existing Etisalat iPhone plan customers will be offered a "tailor-made option" for how they can upgrade to an iPhone 4 plan "soon."

Users Offer Tips

It was noted earlier this week that Apple removed FaceTime from the web pages about iPhone 4 in several countries around the Middle East, including the U.A.E. Neither Apple nor du or Etisalat have before today said anything about FaceTime.

It appears that it may be a carrier update that disables FaceTime, as many users of gray market iPhones have successfully used FaceTime. A comment by user "Abdulla" on our earlier post says: tip: who ever buy the new iphone 4 from etisalat should not click "agree" on the comming masseges : " new setttings from currier " "ok" or "cancel" of u hit ok u may disable the face time option.

Apple's iPhone 4 has been available on the gray market in U.A.E. since shortly after the company announced their latest smartphone in June. Prices were initially very high and have come down only a small amount since then. The prices offered by in particularly du represent a significant saving over the gray market alternatives. In addition, all iPhones sold officially in the U.A.E. are factory unlocked including iPhone 4. Many gray market iPhones are factory locked, leading to potential problems for users to upgrade them when new versions of iOS are introduced.

Also, owners who already have a gray market iPhone 4 will not be able to get on the operators' plans and will have to stick to the options available for all customers, which means getting voice, SMS and data options separately. Especially for customers who use a lot of mobile data the plans represent a significant saving compared to the normal options.

Update Eagerly Awaited

Etisalat was the first telecommunications company in U.A.E. to offer iPhone. They introduced iPhone 3G in February 2009. Both du and Etisalat started selling iPhone 3GS in October 2009.

The launch of iPhone 4 in U.A.E. has been highly anticipated ever since Apple introduced their latest smartphone in June and said it would roll out to 88 countries by September.

Du as well as Etisalat has been mum on the subject of when they would actually start selling iPhone 4 other than stating it would be in September.

As no communication on the matter has been forthcoming from neither telcos nor Apple, speculation has been that supplies of iPhone 4 are very limited and that's the main reason why the telcos are not doing any big launch now.


Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter