By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The doors of the first-ever official brand Apple store in Latin America opened at 11AM at the posh Village Mall shopping center in Barra da Tijuca, located in Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Oeste (West Zone) on Saturday, February 15th.
Inside the American multinational’s new Rio store, iPhones began selling for some of the highest prices of anywhere in the world. An unlocked Apple iPhone 5s (16GB, contract-free) sells for R$2,799 (US$1,171), while in the United States, the same smartphone retails for around US$649.
Approximately 1,700 people waited in line for the store to open on Saturday morning. The line began to form on Friday, February 14th.
“I came on Thursday night, but there was no line so I decided to come back the next day,” Diogo Cuba the first person in line to enter the new store told O Globo.
The store opening makes Brazil the fifteenth country with Apple operations. A key market, Brazil is currently one of the world’s fastest-growing countries for smartphones.
According to research firm Gartner, in 2012 Samsung was the top seller in Brazil’s smartphone market with 42.4 percent of sales. LG followed with 13.3 percent and Apple came in third with 9.1 percent, just above Motorola and Nokia.
“Even though we are at the end of the cycle of strong consumption, it’s still a favorable moment for Apple to open its store,” Carlos Thadeu de Freitas, chief economist at Brazil’s National Confederation for Commerce of Goods, Tourism and Services told Bloomberg before the store’s opening. “There is demand for quality, and Apple is quality.” Apple had previously confirmed a store opening in 2012 in the same location but that opening was delayed.
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