Apple won’t carry iPhone in retail stores

According to published reports, Apple stores in Canada won’t be carrying the new 3G iPhone when it’s released in this country because the company is “disgusted” with pricing plans offered by exclusive carrier Rogers Wireless.

Apple Insider reported that the company wants nothing to do with helping Rogers sell its service through Apple retail outlets. The story has been widely circulating on Apple-oriented blogs. Apple Insider has also reported that Apple has diverted a significant amount of the initial 3G shipment to Europe, limiting Rogers to 10 to 20 iPhones per store.

But one analyst says there may be very different reasons for Apple not to carry the phone in its stores.

Representatives of Apple – both in Canada and the U.S. – and Rogers did not return phone calls Wednesday to confirm or comment. But clicking on the “Find a Store” tab on Apple’s online store reveals only two options: Rogers Store and Fido Store.

Rogers announced a minimum rate plan for the iPhone of $60 per month, with a stingy 150 minutes of voice calls, 75 text messages and 400 MB of data transfer. Since then, thousands of potential iPhone buyers have signed online petitions demanding lower rates — at press time, more than 10,000 at Petition Online and nearly 60,000 at Consumer activists at plan to deliver the second petition to Rogers on July 11, according to the Web site.

But Amit Kaminer, analyst with SeaBoard Group, said it may be the complexity of activation that’s keeping the iPhone out of Apple stores here. “(Activation) is very complicated and time-consuming,” Kaminer said. He said he believes there are other countries where Apple doesn’t offer the iPhone in its retail outlets.

On Wednesday, Rogers’ Fido subsidiary announced “promotional pricing” for iPhone buyers who sign up before Aug. 31 – a three-year data-only plan offering 6 GB of data for $30 a month, with other services, including voice, added a la carte. That’s enough, Rogers said in a statement, to visit 35,952 Web pages, send or receive 157,286 e-mail messages, or watch 6,292 minutes of YouTube videos.

“I think Apple will be very pleased with the new price points,” Kaminer said. The new rates are “significantly better” than those first proposed, “the array of choice is nice, you can actually construct whatever plan you want … That’s good news and I think it’s going to be very beneficial for the launch. They’ve listened to the market, they’ve change their plans. It shows you old Fidos can learn new tricks.”

Recently, Telia Sonera, the exclusive iPhone carrier in Sweden, and Norwegian carrier NetCom dropped their rates for iPhone packages in the face of customer petitions.