Apple cares a Shit about Unlocked iPhones

iphone_vsmall.jpgUnlike some Apple analysts, Apple management doesn’t sound too concerned with the “significant” number of iPhones that have been bought to be unlocked and used abroad.

“Of all the problems that I might face, this is one that I face looking at with a little bit of a smile,” Apple (AAPL) chief operating officer Tim Cook said yesterday at Goldman Sachs’ annual tech stock conference. “Because it means there’s great demand for the phone. To have people stepping over each other to get the phone isn’t a bad thing, I think.”

Why are analysts so agitated? Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi says Apple is missing out on more than $1 billion in lost revenue. Because those phones aren’t being activated on Apple-chosen wireless carriers like AT&T (T), Apple isn’t getting an estimated $10-$15 in revenue per subscriber, per month from its partners.

But that’s a tough sell. Most people aren’t unlocking the iPhone to escape Apple’s partners, Cook said. They’re buying them to take to countries that Apple isn’t selling its phones at all yet, like China. Apple rolled the iPhone out at a “chosen speed” — just four countries last year — on purpose, Cook reminds us.

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