“Argentina blocks iPhone sales in bid to strengthen economy”, Apple Insider “reports”, referring to an official decision from the Argentina government, including Blackberries as well. The only problem? Today is ‘Dia de los Santos Inocentes‘ across Spanish-speaking countries, the local equivalent of April’s Fools. In other words, the information our friends and competitors at Apple Insider took seriously is likely to be nothing but a joke.
As many successful hoaxes, the story had elements which made it somewhat plausible, starting with Argentina’s notorious protectionism, recently covered by the Wall Street Journal. To give you an example, “the government recently delayed one million books in customs to coerce publishers to print them locally,” the WSJ reported.
When it comes to cell phones, acquiring or importing an iPhone is no easy task either for Argentines, and the iPhone 4S hasn’t been officially launched in the country yet, while it’s already available in Chile and Brazil. More generally, the local authorities have been aggressively pressuring electronics manufacturers to assemble their products in the country by almost paralyzing the importation process – as the local newspaper Clarin reported in July, RIM hasn’t been able to export devices to Argentina during 2011’s Q2, and only 25 Blackberries have been registered through customs over that period.
Still, AI’s source story in English, published on a relatively small site called Manuals.ws, also had details that set alarms for anyone familiar enough for the Argentine market. For instance, RIM had confirmed in July that Blackberries would be assembled in Argentina and production started in October, something Manuals.ws seemed to ignore, wrongly stating that “probably Apple and RIM won’t open such plants in Argentina.”
What makes the story even more viral is that Argentines haven’t warned English-speaking media outlets running this story yet. Instead, many are grinning between them at the whole thing and at the serious-sounding debate on Apple Insider’s forum. So are we, except we decided to share it with you, and invite you to watch the false story do the rounds all over the Internet with us – this isn’t over yet.
Update: It seems that Apple Insider has deleted its story, while the Spanish-speaking blog MovilArena posted an update stating the information was a joke, following a warning from one of its Argentine readers.
Apple’s official ‘Where to buy’ page for Argentina is still live as well, and although we couldn’t confirm availability, one of the distributors Apple mentions, Personal, is listing iPhones and Blackberries in its online store. While the mobile operator Movistar doesn’t offer iPhones on its website, it also lists several Blackberry models. As for the popular Argentine e-commerce platform MercadoLibre, it also offers both Apple’s and RIM’s devices.
Even if today’s story on an official government ban is a joke, it may not be the funniest one. Says one of our readers, the Argentine blogger Pablo Sanchez: “Yes, it is a joke, but it’s not illogical to think it could happen for real at some point!”