Belgians to Pay Nearly $1,000 for iPhones

Belgians finally get the chance to buy one of Apple Inc.'s coveted iPhones on Friday — at the highest prices in the world.

The 8-gigabyte iPhone will retail for 525 euros ($825) — more than four times the U.S. price of $199. The 16-gigabyte version costs 615 euros ($966).

The same phone would cost $299 in the U.S.

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Belgian Enterprise Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne blamed a local law that forbids companies subsidizing one product by charging more for something else.

He said he will try to scrap this rule in September because it stops phone operators from selling handsets inexpensively along with fixed service contracts, as is common elsewhere.

For instance, Dutch customers over the border can pay just 1 euro ($1.57) for an iPhone if they pick a contract with operator T-Mobile.

[The Belgian law forbids "locking" of cell phones to any specific carrier, something consumer advocates in other countries have been demanding for years. A brisk industry has sprung up worldwide in "unlocking" iPhones, which are meant to be locked to specific carriers.

The downside is that the customer pays everything upfront for the phone rather than in installments, as is the case with most U.S. plans, in exchange for the right to purchase any service plan he or she wants.

As explained earlier by, American iPhone customers won't really be getting a cheaper iPhone with the $199 model — they'll actually be paying hundreds of dollars more over the lifetime of the 2-year AT&T service contract.

AT&T will also offer iPhones in the U.S. without 2-year contracts — for $599 and $699, and those won't be allowed to run on other networks.]

The Belgian iPhone carrier, Mobistar, claims it isn't worried that high prices will deter customers. It is expecting lines at stores in Brussels when the phones go on sale Friday.

For the first few weeks, shoppers won't be allowed to buy more than one iPhone each — even if they could afford it.