The recent theft of about 4000 stinking new 3GS iPhones in Antwerp has been all over the news these past couple of weeks. If anyone still hasn’t heard about it, I’ll reiterate – a bunch of thieves cut through the wall of a warehouse in Antwerp and stole a shipment of officially unlocked iPhones meant for Mobistar which is estimated at more than $3 000 000.
The operator immediately announced that since they have the IMEI (unique serial number) of all of the phones in the shipment, they can block them from their network. Unfortunately, since the iPhones are all factory unlocked, it was just a matter of time until they were shipped out of the country and sold worldwide.
Well, here at TouchMyApps.com we’ll be the first to tell where a large portion of those phones ended up.
But first, a little intro. Many of you may not know that while the 3GS is triumphantly making its way around the world, in the small and forgotten country of Russia it is still not officially available. This makes all of the Apple fans either to stick with the older 3G or take a bit of a risk and buy imported phones.
Therefore it’s no wonder that the thief chose Russia as the first dumping stop of the stolen 3GS phones. Several resellers who hang out at one of the main Russian iPhone sites have reported that they have been getting calls from unknown people, offering them officially unlocked European “Jesus” phones at rock bottom prices in shipments of 100 or more with no possibility of credit or anything like that.
The owner of shack at a local computer market who wishes to remain anonymous, confirmed that a lot of the nearby shops have already started to feature the Belgian phones, though not all of the owners decide to strike a deal with the thieves. The main concern is that Interpol is already on the case, and with serial numbers in hand, will be able to confiscate a large portion of the phones. Another matter – Interpol is likely to demand that the phones’ IMEIs be disabled, making them worthless for Russian networks, and in turn drawing the ire of many customers. At the same time, not everybody tracks the latest news and the resellers who still haven’t heard about the theft often gladly fork over cash in order to stock the phones.
And to anyone who suspects that they may have bought a stolen iPhone – it’s quite easy to check. Just go into Settings -> General -> About and check the Model. If the last two symbols are NF – you have a Mobistar phone in your hands. In this case we would advise to immediately exchange or return the phone for a rebate, or you might end up with a bricked phone by New Years or earlier.
[EDIT@20/11/2009] It has been brought to our attention, that the NF ending symbols do not seem to be exclusive to Mobistar, rather they indicate the France/Luxembourg/Belgium/Germany area the iPhones are targeted at, since at least part of the Germany T-mobile phones also have the same coding, as well as Orange France, and Vox Mobile from the city-state. I would like to thank Justus Zenker for bringing to our attention the Germany T-mobile information and ask anyone else with legit non-Mobistar phones with the same markings to write in to compare the data.