Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

The iPhones of Equatorial Guinea

February 2, 2008: 4:17 PM ET

picture-31.jpgIt's one of the smallest nations in Africa, roughly the size of Hawaii with a population of half a million. Yet the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea tops the list of iPhone-using countries compiled by Net Applications, which issued a report on Friday that ranks them by the relative frequency with which the Web was accessed in January via an Apple (AAPL) iPhone.

"We've heard the rumors that many iPhones are being used outside the officially sanctioned countries," writes the net service company in iPhones Without Border. "So, we decided to check it out and surprise, surprise, it's true. The iPhone has a presence in almost every country on earth."

picture-32.jpgThe full list can be seen at NetApplications.com. I've pasted as much of it as I could fit in a screen-grab below the fold.

Given that Apple has only sanctioned iPhone use in four countries -- the U.S., the U.K., Germany and France -- it's amazing how widely it is now being used. If you were wondering where those 1 million unlocked iPhones went, this may be the answer.

In fact, there were only five countries in the survey where the iPhone did not show up -- South Korea, Lithuania, Taiwan, Malta and Iran -- perhaps in some cases because GSM and EDGE aren't supported there.

It's also surprising, at least at first glance, how many third world countries turn up near the top of this list. Two out of every 1,000 Americans now surf the Web using an iPhone, according to Net Applications, but in the Ivory Coast that number is nearly five per thousand. In Equatorial Guinea, it's better than two per hundred. [UPDATE: It has jumped overnight to more than one in ten in Equatorial Guinea, according to the weekly stats.]

Or maybe it's not so surprising, given the explosion of cell phone use in Africa over the past five years (see, for example, here). In countries where wi-fi and Ethernet connections are rare, a $400 iPhone may be a relatively cheap and dependable way to reach the Internet.

And it's really not so surprising to find Equatorial Guinea in the No. 1 spot. The country's economy has boomed since the discovery of offshore oil reserves in 1996. According to the CIA Factbook, Equatorial Guinea now has the fourth highest per capita income in the world, after Luxembourg, Bermuda and Jersey.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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