This is India: iPhone
Apple’s iPhone has been hugely successful in most parts of the world, but no here in India. However, worldwide, it has sold millions of units and is adored by consumers and software developers alike. Living in the US you can buy one for $200 and a 2 year contract. In India the phone sells for around $700. At first this seemed a bit strange. One of the richest nation’s in the world was getting a huge discount while India (a developing nation, by the way) was paying a huge “Apple Tax.” At least that’s what it seemed like at first. Looking at the life the AT&T contract the total price is over $2000, however, here in India, the 2 year cost is less than $1,000. Airtel – my service provider – even threw in a free year of data service (500mb per month), but I still hate them.
The iPhone is very comparably priced to the other high end smart phones available. So the price doesn’t seem to be a real barrier. Some have written that the iPhone was not advertised enough. At least in Kolkata, this is not true. The ads were terrible and did not help sell the phone, but they were pretty much everywhere. The common slogan of “The iPhone you’ve been waiting for,” makes no sense at all.
So what’s the deall? I feel there are 3 main reasons that the iPhone hasn’t “clicked” here in India just yet:
1.) The Feature Game – When you walk into a mobile store, you can’t play with any working phones. You are just looking that device powered down, a list of features, and a price. In this scenario, the iPhone often wins in looks, but even more often looses in feature list and price. The 2mb camera, lack of MMS messaging, and “missing” physical keyboard all count as negatives to the passing consumer. Of course this completely ignores the app store and that the actual features list on the iPhone is somewhat limitless. Also, the Indian media has been doing a pretty poor job of covering the iPhone. Often listing features and complaints that are associated with the 1st Generation iPhone and subsequently fixed in the 3G version that is available.
2.) Sync What? – Not every Indian has a desktop or laptop computer. In fact, it’s just in the last year or two that a “family computer” has become accepted as not a luxury item. Even the people who have and use computers primarily use them for browsing and writing e-mails. Outside of the business sector, the information on your computer doesn’t appear to be that useful when you’re stuck in traffic for 2 hours. The iPhone’s ability to become a micro version of your computer – carrying the internet, e-mail, and anything else you might want – is what makes it such a unique device and also what probably seems useless to many people who just want a phone that will sent text messages. Furthermore, the idea of a “media library” of music, videos, podcasts, etc. is in its very initial stages here. Most people who want music put on their iPod of ringtones for their mobile, will go to a street vendor who has a computer. You buy tracks and they dump them on the device – usually songs that are not cataloged in anyway – leaving you with a lot of “Track 1” songs in your playlist. Managing your digital media is a concept that is still a couple years away for most mobile users.
3.) Operator Error – iPhone users in the US have a distinct advantage when it comes to learning how to use the device. Not only do they have easy access to Apple Stores where they can play and talk to a “Genius” before buying, but they also have the wherewithal to go to Apple’s website and watch instructional videos or read about all the features. This is too much work for most people, who would rather the device worked just like their old phone – only that it looks better. Each iPhone should come loaded with videos on how to use it, you can delete these after you learn, but it would all be there from the start. Or stores should be offering a tutor service. In 10 minutes you could get a typical user going quite well. Instead people sit with their iPhone, not knowing how to turn it off properly, setup mail, or input an event in to your calendar.
It will be interesting to see the India effect as the phone and software is updated over time. Maybe sales will soar, or maybe, as some have suggested, India is Nokia-Country and that will never change.