A Cashless iPhone Society

nocash.jpgApple isn’t trying to create a communist worker’s paradise but the electronics maker is no longer accepting cash for the popular iPhone. Apple now only accepts credit and debit card purchases at its stores. Carl Marx must be rolling in his dustbin.

IDC tech analyst Chris Hazelton says this is the latest example of Apple trying to keep tight control of the iPhone. Apple currently controls which carrier the iPhone works on and what programs the phone runs.

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris says the credit-only policy announced last week is meant to discourage people from buying iPhones in hopes of reselling them for a profit. Credit sales make it easier for Apple to track bulk buyers. Resellers do good business on eBay, where around a 1000 iPhones are up for sale daily. Unlocked iPhones can be sold for more than locked iPhones at the Apple store.

The iPhone is locked into one mobile phone carrier. In the United States that carrier is AT&T. Over the past few months people have learned how to circumvent this, so other carriers can be used. It is believed that Apple has a revenue-sharing deal with AT&T similar to those Apple worked out in Europe, so Apple loses money when a user switches to an unauthorized carrier. It is estimated that about 250,000 iPhones have been unlocked. The potential loss of revenue could be in the millions of dollars.

MobileCrunch has been following the battle between Apple and those who have been unlocking the iPhone. I have generally been more sympathetic towards Apple than the lock pickers. But restricting people to their credit cards so they are easier to track is spooky to me. If I want to pay cash for something, I don’t like it when I’m refused a sale because I didn’t bring my plastic with me. Forcing me to sign a contract with AT&T is a choice I make if I want an iPhone but restricting how I pay for the phone takes away my choices.

The only nation to experiment with a cashless society was Pol Pot’s Cambodia and that didn’t workout so well. Unfortunately, I predict the public won’t care too much and Apple will be able to get away with its experiment of a cashless iPhone society.

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