The camera is one of the most celebrated features of the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S, earning first place on Flickr’s “most used camera” chart, and spawning many iPhone-only photography apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic.
While the vast majority of buyers welcome the camera on the iPhone, there’s a select few who don’t — or indeed, can’t — buy an iPhone precisely because of the presence of a camera.
One such group is anyone working for Singapore’s Defence Ministry MINDEF, who recently added a directive that the only smartphones that could be used by servicemen were those with the camera modules removed. Not only that, but they would have to produce a certificate proving the work had been done by a local carrier.
Instead of being able to attempt the work themselves, or entrust it to a specialist, this has ensured personnel will be looking to buy smartphones without a camera, and as it’s estimated that half of all smartphone owners in Singapore have iPhones, it’s a gap in the market waiting to be filled.
Local carrier M1 seems to be the first to offer such a service, with both the iPhone 4 and 4S being made available with a camera-removal service option. For S$49 the camera unit is spirited away, along with the warranty too, as this is not an official Apple modification.
A third-party warranty can be added for an extra S$321, but once the cameras — both front and rear — have been taken out, there’s no going back, as the units cannot be reinstalled. The camera-less iPhones are not only aimed at those working for MINDEF, but for those who must complete their two-years of mandatory national service too.
It sounds like a good money-spinner, but how will Apple respond to this carrier-approved mangling of their precious phone?