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Hi-Tech: iphoned Moscow
Svetlana Reznik

he iPhone is fast becoming a ubiquitous Moscow accessory. While the technical merits of the $1000 phone can be debated with the same religious fervor that ignites Mac vs. PC debates, the iPhone is an undisputed status symbol. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the iPhone hype, say by living under a rock in Karelia, don’t worry, no one will know if you run out and get one today. This article will examine your iPhone options and highlight the most useful Russian applications.

Most of the iPhones you see in Moscow are acquired on the grey market – purchased outside Russia or from non-authorized distribution channels in Russia. It took Apple so long to negotiate distribution agreements with Russia’s top three telecoms (MTS, VimpelCom, and MegaFon) that according to Vedomosti Russia had an estimated half million phones in use by the time official distribution started last year. Today, these telcos are still struggling to unload their pricey 3G models while the newer 3GS models have already been introduced on the grey market and sell for nearly the same price.

The 3GS is the newest model iPhone. The new “S” version has a built-in video camera, upgraded 3 megapixel camera with built in autofocus, voice control, and longer battery life so for nearly the same price, it makes sense to get the 3GS. The 32Gb version goes for 29,000 rubles at Gorbushka, the destination for all things electronic and many things pirated. It can be found for even less online. Try which offers the 32Gb 3GS for under 29,000 and will deliver it to you same day. In contrast, Megafon is still selling the 3G 8Gb for 22,000 rubles. If the 3GS upgrades are not worth the extra cost for you, consider purchasing a refurbished 3G. Depending on the condition, they start at half the price of a new phone and are widely available online and at Gorbushka.

Be aware when purchasing 3GS phones in Russia that some stolen phones make their way to the market. At the end of last year, three million dollars worth of unlocked iPhones were stolen from a warehouse in Belgium and reportedly smuggled into Russia. Cell phone carriers can block those phones using the IMEI number, which is the phone’s serial number. Play it safe by checking your IMEI number on the phone prior to purchasing it by checking the About screen. If your IMEI ends in NF, it means it is from Europe and you may want to avoid the European phones for a while. Colleagues of mine recently purchased the 3GS from timegsm and the IMEI did not end in NF.

If you’ve just arrived in Moscow with a locked US iPhone and want someone to crack it for you, you can get it unlocked for 2000 rubles at Gorbushka. Once unlocked, purchase a SIM card, and you’re good to go. Moscow is a very wired city and you will be able to pick up Beeline’s WiFi in most places.

The true value of the iPhone and the cause of the hype are the applications. There are thousands of applications which can be downloaded from iTunes. Skype’s iPhone app, for example, will allow you to save on long distance expenses by letting you call home using the web. Below are a couple useful iPhone apps for Russia:


Russian Flip
Price: $5.99
Flashcards are perfect for building your Russian vocabulary. Russian Flip lets you pick your level of difficulty, from easy to expert, and you can add your own words too. The app has 5000 Russian words and tracks your progress to drill you on harder words till you get them.

Price: Free
Afisha’s app lets you find events, movies, restaurants, concerts, exhibition, and theater listings in Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as letting you access user reviews and content. One of the best features is the GPS locator, which finds restaurants and entertainment around you and lists the numbers and addresses.

Getting Around:
Price: $1.99
Great for navigating the Moscow Metro in addition to 90 other cities for when you’re traveling. The subway stations are listed in both English and Russian. In addition to Moscow, iMetro also has maps of St. Petersburg, Nizhni Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Ekatarinburg, Kazan, and Volgograd. Ukraine, Belorussia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan are also available.

Price: Free
Let’s you avoid the probki around Moscow and 130 other cities in Russia and CIS. The maps show traffic in real time and help you re-route to avoid it.

Svetlana Reznik has worked in technology for 14 years.
She may be contacted at

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