Apple opened talks with Iranian distributors for selling the iPhone, sources speaking with the Wall Street Journal reveal.
Senior Apple execs have reportedly discussed with Iranian distributors at Apple’s regional headquarters in London the potential of establishing premium resellers in Iran, or midsize franchise outlets, a model used widely by the company in Europe and Asia.
US companies have mostly held back from expanding their business in Iran because of the sanctions in place. However, some restrictions were lifted earlier this year. More importantly, in May the US decided to lift restrictions that prohibited the sale of consumer communication technologies in Iran.
A launch in Iran has its series of challenges: although Apple’s devices can be found in the country already, an official launch involves official carrier partners. The WSJ is certain that Apple’s road to the carriers will be difficult due to the government’s deep involvement in the sector.
Apple has consulted the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to assess under what conditions it could start operations in Iran and how it could pursue a formal relationship with Iran-based customers, according to two people familiar with the matter. Such contacts have involved discussions over how to seek U.S.-government clearance to send spare parts or repair products purchased in Iran. The foreign-assets office declined to comment.
By entering Iran, Apple will challenge established players such as LG and Samsung as the demand for smartphones is growing. With its population of 77 millio, Iran is a particularly attractive new market, especially if we consider that 42% of the population is under the age of 25, according to the WSJ.