Launch of Apple iphone in India… a hyperbole??

Apple’s launch of the iphone, last year in the US, had started making people all over the world drool over it. Indian eyes twinkled at the sight of the 11.6 millimeter device on the internet. That’s freaking slim for a device that embodies the coolest features like the multi – touch support, accelerometer, proximity sensor, OSX (pronounced ou es ten) on a mobile device! There were a few glitches in the phone, which derailed the magical launch of the ‘phone to die for.’ But, these bugs did not cut down the frenzy for the coolest phone ever! Techie buffs all around were completely freaked out and tried to acquire the gadget anyhow. Many actually managed to get the phone parcelled from the US, but unfortunately it was the locked version and unlocking it, illegally of course, was almost an insurmountable task.

Finally, the Apple store realized the impatience of the Asian’s for the possession of this device and decided to launch it in Asia. It is a known fact that Nokia dominates the Indian market where mobile phones are concerned. There is an unspoken nepotism of Indian’s towards Nokia cell phones. The other leading manufacturers include Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Motorola. Sigh! None of these manufacturers have been able to offer the cool features to be in the same league as the iphone. The news of the launch of the iphone threatened the rivals in the market. These manufacturers came up with offerings to counter – attack the launch of the iphone 3G in India. However, none of them could provide the appalling interface, media player (Touch screen iPod on a mobile phone!!!) or the great internet experience that the iphone promised to give. Nokia N Series, a multimedia Smartphone has a good music player, but it is nothing when compared to the iPod’s superior music quality. Same goes for the internet experience as the connection on Nokia phones is nothing extraordinary. Moreover, GPRS operators charge exorbitant prices for mediocre connectivity. The PDA phones offered by Blackberry, Dopod, HP, O2, Palm, Motorola, HTC, and Nokia have been ruling the hi-end business market and it goes without saying that they charge a luxurious amount for all that extra oomph.
Eventually, on August, 22nd 2008, the revolutionary PDA Smartphone, the Apple iphone 3G got released in India. Newspapers broadcasted news of the launch months before, the expectations of the Apple stores and the curiosity of the techie buffs in India. Apple has reached widespread customers and created tremendous hype over the iphone, hence, city dealers for the phone decided to keep their stores open till midnight and later, as they were expecting a huge customer demand for the phone on the night of the launch itself. The expected price for the phone was around Rs.16,000 – Rs.20,000, but the whopping price at which the phone got launched was appalling! The price of the 11.6 millimeter device announced by Vodafone ESSAR and Bharti Airtel was Rs. 31,000 for the 8GB model and Rs. 36,100 for the 16GB model. In the US, the 8GB phone costs $199(Rs. 10,000 approx.) and the 16 GB model costs $299 (Rs.14,000 approx.). The price factor is certainly responsible for the slow start of the phone in India. In Kolkata, Apple store authorities were expecting customer’s queuing for the phone at the midnight 70 – nation launch of the phone, however, contrary to expectations, the Kolkata Vodafone store, just managed to entice the Indian football captain, Bhaichung Bhutia and other city stores selling the Apple iphone saw just a few executives from multinationals queuing up to take this beauty home. Bangalore, where only two stores were opened also experienced a cold start with just 5 buyers from 40 people. The unreasonable prices discouraged the prospective buyers for sure.

The thought of the iphone being available in India was all glittery and glorious, but the start has not been as terrific as it was expected. There are lots of reasons for this… The first one is undoubtedly the price. The phone is unmatchable, but there are some glitches as well. The camera is 2.0 MP. At Rs. 25,000 Nokia is offering its N95 8GB model, which has a 5.0 MP camera with Carl Zeiss lenses. A 2.0MP camera comes at a minimal Rs. 7000, which on being compared to the iphone’s whopping Rs.30,000 makes one feel skittish. Also, there is no MMS option on the phone, AT & T can be hacked and hence, not much of a use, no custom camera settings, no native 3rd party application support and the screen is prone to finger prints. The PDA Smartphone is a desirable commodity for sure, but its disadvantages outweigh the advantages derailing its demand in the Indian market, in spite of Apple’s excellent marketing capabilities. There have been some complaints over dropped calls and jerky connections. In the era of touch screen technology, when phones like HTC and O2 are available in the market, iphone is facing a tough challenge in India. Vodafone has recently slashed the price of the ‘phone to die for’ by Rs. 1,500 making the 8GB version available for Rs. 29,640 and the 16GB for Rs. 34,580.

Apple has promised that the software glitches that Apple iphone suffers from will be fixed. India still does not have 3G, so the 3G factor that is attached with the brand is just for name-sake. The bandwidth issues that India has been suffering from have been sorted to a certain extent with the iphone’s release but not wholly. The internet connectivity depends on the Enhanced Data rates for GSM Revolution (EDGE), which is reasonably faster than GPRS prevalent in India, but not like a 3G connection that is iconic of the phone. In fact, 3G customers in USA are reporting massive call drop issues.

In spite of the glitches, Apple still shines! People still desire to possess the super gadget and it should not be described as desire, but a longing yearning for it. With the increase in the purchasing power of Indians and a little drop in the iphone’s price to actually make it more affordable , Apple can definitely look forward to a colossal business in India.

Upasana Mallick.

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