After a week in which Turks were encouraged to engage in PR stunts like smashing, burning, and shooting their iPhones, and as the lira took a nose dive of 16% against the dollar after President Trump authorized doubling tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, it doesn’t appear these efforts have done much to significantly dent iPhone sales in Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan encouraged Turks to boycott Apple and other US electronic products this week: “If they have iPhone, there is Samsung on the other side. And we have our Venus and Vestel. We are going to produce enough for ourselves. We have to serve better quality goods than we are importing from them,” he urged in a Tuesday speech.
But despite Turkish media giving the boycott extensive coverage and a spate of YouTube videos showing citizens burning dollar bills and destroying Apple’s iPhones, it appears Turks are still buying the US product. Or at least we could say there’s nothing substantive to prove the boycott is having the desired impact.
In a Saturday speech Erdogan declared his country would not be cowed by Washington: “We will not surrender to those who present themselves as a strategic partner while at the same time trying to make us a strategic target,” he said at a congress of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The two NATO allies are now in open economic war after Turkey has refused demands from the White House that it release American pastor Andrew Brunson, which the BBC has noted has become “a pawn in a personal feud” that’s now spiraled out of control.
Erdogan accused Washington of conducting an “economic coup” against Turkey. He repeated the theme on Saturday, saying “Some people threaten us with economy, sanctions, foreign currency exchange rates, interest rates and inflation. We know your shenanigans and we will defy you.”
As Erdogan has also threatened return sanctions on the US, it appears he’s in a losing no-win situation even as the iPhone boycott received immense international media attention.
Erdogan’s fiery boycott calls and US reaction…
Though limited to the level of anecdotal testimonial, Russian state-run Sputnik has surveyed a dozen or more iPhone salespersons and consumers at stores in Turkey.
Below are some of the highlights from these interviews:
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a salesman from one of Ankara’s mobile phone outlets told Sputnik that “both prices and a balance of purchases [in the city] remain unchanged” and that three out of ten customers are still interested in buying an iPhone, while the remaining seven customers prefer Samsung models and those made by other manufacturers.
And one Turkish iPhone customer interviewed believes that Erdogan’s call to abandon the US-made electronic goods is more emotional than real: “The turnover of funds in the Turkish electronics market amounts to millions of dollars, and swiftly pulling the plug will mean a full-fledged economic blow to mainly domestic entrepreneurs. No one seeks to implement this task,” the man identified only as Ali explained.
A number of Turks said their feelings about purchasing or using an iPhone would not be altered based on coercion from the state, such as an engineer named Orhand, who said:
“As far as I know, in terms of the number of the phones that have been sold the, iPhone occupies 7 percent of the market, but in terms of money iPhone accounts for 26 percent. These phones are very expensive for people to buy. Most Turks buy Samsung models, which occupy more than 50 percent of the country’s market.
Another consumer noted of her iPhone that she was “very disappointed with it because Apple is constantly updating my gadget without asking my permission” but balked at the idea that Erdogan’s call to boycott would have any effect on her decisions.
A further young person interviewed said such demands to boycott from Ankara would like turn Turkey’s youth against the state: “But I am against the state, not me, deciding on what brand of a mobile phone people should use and what brand they should give up,” he said.
Pricing for the iPhone X starts at 7,499 Turkish lira, which at the current exchange rate is now over $1,245. At such a price — which had been high even before the lira’s dive — there likely weren’t a flood of Turks lining up to get it in the first place.