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Time for prodigal fan to return to Apple?

New offerings may just help firm reclaim those on Android's side now


AS iPhone mania returned to Singapore on Friday, Apple's new jumbo-sized offerings might just help it to reclaim consumers who had gone over to the Android side in order to satisfy their large-screen cravings.

Now that the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus are available, the jettisoning of other smartphones appears to have begun. Last week, trade-ins of Samsung phones tripled week on week at US-based smartphone reseller Gazelle Inc, according to reports. In Singapore, a redistribution of power from Android-based handsets to iPhones is also likely to play out in similar fashion. "Old Apple fans will return to the fold now that the phone screen sizes have caught up," said Clement Teo, a senior analyst at research firm Forrester.

Apple also has the advantage of timing. Said Ryan Huang, market strategist at brokerage IG: "Another boost for Apple's market share is its earlier launch. Despite an earlier unveiling of Samsung Note 4, Singapore is not likely to get the handset before mid-October, giving Apple a one-month headstart."

The enthralment with the Cupertino firm's creations has not worn off here if the figures are anything to go by. SingTel did not reveal how many registrations of interest it received this year, but it said that more than 50,000 customers tried to book an appointment to buy the new iPhones after getting through the registration of interest phase. This implies a more enthusiastic response to the handsets compared to last year when SingTel saw fewer than 40,000 registrations of interest for the iPhone 5c and 5s. Even so, a record 68,000 people had registered their interest for the iPhone 5 in the year before that.

The iPhone 6 Plus is sold out across all three telcos but gauging its popularity relative to the smaller iPhone 6 is difficult, given how the supply of the former is smaller worldwide, The Business Times understands. But even as authentic fan frenzy was on display with arguments erupting at some resellers' outlets here, this year's iPhone turnout had a distinctly scalper undertone.

By Friday afternoon, the new handsets were already listed for sale online, with profiteers asking for about S$1,500 for an iPhone 6. Elsewhere, the iPhones' delayed launch in China also created a scalping opportunity, with buyers snapping up handsets in Sydney in order to resell them on the mainland.

Globally, the new iPhones are expected to outdo their predecessors yet again. Apple took in more than four million pre-orders for the handsets in the first 24 hours of their launch last week - twice the number received for the iPhone 5 two years ago. And while first-weekend sales for the iPhone 5s and 5c broke the nine-million mark, analysts expect that those for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will hit 10 million units.

Apple's annual product bonanza has also become a re-pricing opportunity for telcos here. All three players rolled out increases in mobile subscription rates for new or recontracting customers ranging from S$2 to S$5 a month in the weeks leading up to the sale of the iPhones. Even so, these phones tend to cost telcos dearly in terms of handset subsidies, which can, "weigh a bit on telco expenses for the quarter", said IG's Mr Huang. "This is likely to put a lid on any earnings upside in the near term, but over the longer term, we should start to see the price hikes help provide a good lift."