The launch of the iPhone 4S in Costa Rica was the closest it gets to trial by fire for the newly opened Costa Rican telecommunications market.
The field is marked by one highly demanded telephone, three mobile-phone operators and numerous plans and stores. Customers include thousands of Costa Ricans, many who bought the new iPhone 4S as soon as it went on sale last Friday at midnight.
Three companies – ICE Kölbi, Móvistar and Claro – now sell the iPhone 4S. The smartphone’s Jan. 27 launch was energetic and at times chaotic. At Multiplaza Escazú, a shopping center west of San José, customers ran from one store to the next comparing prices and plans. One week after the launch, all three companies say sales have been good.
“We are very pleased with the public’s reaction to our iPhone 4S launch. Eighty percent of the people who visited our stores on [Jan. 27] bought one. During our presale period, we registered 1,000 people who were interested in buying an iPhone, and many of them already have a meeting with our sales staff to close the deal,” said Móvistar Communications Manager Matías Señorán.
The iPhone 4S looks exactly like its predecessor, the iPhone 4, but the new version has better features, such as a more powerful processor, an 8-megapixel camera and an iOS 5 operating system.
“I was excited about the iPhone 4S because of its camera. I waited until the new iPhone was launched in Costa Rica to replace my old cellphone,” Federico López said last Friday.
Ahead of the midnight launch, customers lined up in front of stores, a clear sign that demand for the iPhone is strong in Costa Rica. A year ago, hundreds of Ticos were still paying to bring iPhones from the United States and Europe, before the three companies offered them for sale here.
“At Kölbi, we are more than satisfied with the first week’s sales,” said Danny Salas, director of development at the publicly owned Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), which operates Kölbi. “We believe that we are stronger than our competitors because of our solid position in the country, with more than 100 stores.”
The three companies offer iPhones with 16, 32 or 64 GB of memory. Móvistar also sells an 8-GB model. Calling and texting plans range from ₡16,435 ($32) to ₡45,000 ($90) per month.
In most cases, customers pay only a partial cost of the telephone, and companies offer the 16-GB model free with the purchase of a calling plan. Kölbi also offers a free 32-GB phone with purchase of its most expensive plan, while Móvistar offers a free 16-GB iPhone in three of its plans, a 32-GB model in two of its plans and a 64-GB model in one of the plans.