Anh-Minh Do
Anh-Minh Do
5:00 pm on Jul 10, 2013


You either love or hate Apple. You either learn from the way they do things, or you think their way of doing things is preposterous. But either way, Apple just can’t be ignored as it’s one of the most important companies of the last few decades. But when Apple itself ignores you, it can be a huge bummer. That’s how it feels for gadget fans in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, Apple has gained the brand status of being one of the most luxurious and respected brands. That also means it’s the most ripped off brand. If I own a Vietnamese shop that sells any type of phone, I’ll most likely stick an Apple logo on my storefront. If I want to buy a new jacket, I just might buy the one with the tacky Apple logo on the back. It’s this rugged dichotomy that has kept Apple and Vietnam at arm’s length.

Vietnam is just not big enough for Tim Cook to visit and annoying enough to warrant being walled out of the walled garden. Here are the four key reasons why Apple, I believe, thinks Vietnam is a nuisance that should be treated like an untrained puppy.

1. Bootlegging and jailbreaking

Vietnam’s bootlegging, jailbreaking, and unlocking culture has been around since before the iPhone came along. Vietnamese have been expert hackers for a long time (look at all the viruses in the country). In fact, any store that sells iPhones that doesn’t know how to jailbreak is a generally useless store for the average user who wants access to free apps and some hidden jailbreak features. Vietnamese users want to pirate stuff on the Apple store because they can’t pay and get the apps themselves.

2. Brand bootlegging


Take a look at the picture to the right. These stores are everywhere. They’re steadily diluting the Apple brand, while at the same time underlining how much people prefer the Apple brand. One of my Vietnamese colleagues, when asked why he’s buying an expensive iPhone 5 even though he doesn’t have a job, replied, “Because it looks fancier.

But despite this phenomenon being great free publicity for Apple, all these no-name stores rocking Apple’s brand increasingly prevent Apple from meticulously controlling its brand image the way they want to. And there’s not much they can do about that anyway, since the market here probably isn’t big or wealthy enough to warrant an Apple Store anytime soon.

3. iPhone leaks

Remember back in 2010 and earlier when Apple had a number of leak fiascos that led to breaking down doors and accosting journalists for leaking their products? Well, when the leaks started surfacing in Vietnam, where Apple couldn’t prosecute, that was pretty much the beginning of a rocky relationship that’s also soured by the hacking and bootlegging that’s going on across the country. And only naturally…

4. Vietnam is last in line


Late last year, Apple started rolling out the iPhone 5 to nations where it hadn’t launched earlier. But Vietnam was literally the last in line in Asia, later even than smaller markets across Africa. Of course, this is probably a case of Vietnam shooting itself in its own foot, what with regulatory hassles eating up the time it takes to approve new phones on the market.

Clearly (with as much tongue-in-cheek as I’ve got) Apple’s got it in for Vietnam. When iPhone 5 or iPhone 6 rolls out later this year (or maybe even an iWatch), Vietnam’s sure to get pushed to the bottom once again. After all, with Yves Saint Laurent’s former chief coming over to the Apple team, he’ll probably be telling more stories about how Vietnamese people bootleg the hell out of YSL brands too. And it’s the dangerous combo of bootlegging, hacking, and leaking that really tarnishes Vietnam in Apple’s eyes.

Of course, who knows what Apple thinks, they’ve got bigger fish to fry than tiny Asian countries. But the truth is, there’s that huge loyal user base of Apple fans here in Vietnam. Tablet sales are dominated completely by iPads and MacBooks, which are the coolest item to rock in a local coffeeshop. So, Tim Cook, please, hook up some early roll outs for us here in Vietnam.

Then again, don’t worry about that – Vietnamese users will just figure out a way to get Apple stuff over here. And if they can’t, they’ll just make some up.

  • Joseph Duemer

    The Vietnamese learned to hack back when they were hacking bicycles to carry heavy loads down the Ho Chi Minh Trail — it is a deep, deep part of the culture.

  • qqqqwwww

    Shameless vietnamese

  • Hai Ho

    Did you forget to mention about credit card frauds on Apple store?

  • Jerome Tan

    I’m Singaporean and I travel a lot to Vietnam. My Vietnamese clients buy iPhones and iPads from the Singapore Apple Store using their Vietnamese credit cards, have the stuff delivered to my flat, and I bring the gadgets over for them. Customer service going the extra mile :)

  • Loc

    You’re right, but as far as I’ve seen China is just the same. It’s worse for Apple in China because they sell Apple branded phone but “designed and assembled in China by Chinese” aka fake iOS devices. It’s also much worse in China when it’s about pirating apps (jailbreaking is legit everywhere).

    It’s just that Vietnam market is just not that big (yet) for Apple to care.

  • Quang Anh

    Do Anh Minh, your article is to subjective. I thing the phenomenon you mention in your article appear in others countries, not only Vietnam. As a Vietnamese, I’m sad when read your article. Hope you know my think.

  • Thuan Soldier

    @Minh Anh
    These things very often happen in many countries, not only in Vietnam. Vietnam is growing up. I rarely read articles in the TechInAsia website but every time I come here I notice that you often look to find the root of all evil in Vietnam rather than see its mature. You are Vietnamese-American who has lived for many years in the USA so when you are in Vietnam, you (often) get lower services or things that look much worse than USA’s. Do concede the fact that we were experienced through many *unjust* wars and sometimes people look back upon them as wrong directions.

    At the end of the day, I however feel some bad points happening in Vietnam but I wouldn’t consider the existence everlastingly. I hope Vietnam someday will be one of the most outstanding countries in the world. The word CHANGE couldn’t be made overnight in this circumstance.


  • Nguyên

    Not at all. I don’t use Apple’s products (except Quicktime).
    I’m Vietnamese. Cheese !

  • Thiên Long

    I’m Vietnamese and…. That’s true…So sad! The rest will do our best to change, I promise!

  • Paul

    It is fasinating how an average Vietnamese’s salary is less than $200 per month, but you would see Iphone user at every coners of the street. Even when the price of the black market being jacked up to the roof, the Vietnamese are more than happy to pay $2000 for an iphone 5s while riding a $1000 moped. However, I dun think Apple HATE Vietnam, infact Apple is just not ready to deal with all the politic bs.

  • Haul

    Narrow minded! Make more research and get rid of your bias, dude! Peace!

  • Kim

    This article is full of ignorance. An article written based on opinions and does not contain any researched facts. I am truly ashamed to have read this article and to know this article is written by a fellow Vietnamese (who probably knows nothing about Vietnam or the business).

    • Janet B

      Oh, please, Kim. Get a clue!!! I am an expat living in Vietnam for seven years! I can say everything in this article is accurate. Stop trying to criticize those who are telling the truth and instead focus on changing your culture. It really needs a lot of improvement.

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