Thursday, August 21, 2008

iPhone and us

Finally, Airtel and Vodafone announced the availability of iPhone in India. Just like lots of wannabes I was also waiting for this. I work for a IT company and its not uncommon to find colleagues who are traveling to US for work.

About 3 months back, two persons (Ram and Krishna - yeah, the gods)in my own project bought an iPhone for them. It cost USD 440 to them and it was fairly easy to have them work with our local GSM cards. All was well. I had almost made my mind to buy them and asked one of my friends (Manish) to bring it with him. He was visiting Desh. The friend, a great money minder, thought that buying a iPhone at USD 440 is a bad idea and prices would come down. Also in terms of technology, features its not a great buy.

So, I deferred the decision. After a while iPhone supplies went low and everyone knew that Apple would release a new one , a better technology and a lower price. All this happened. iPhone 3G was launched and you can get it at USD 200 and then you have to pay more for getting the service. As of now it costs around USD 500 in America (I might not be updated here, it might be for less).

Our local boys announced that they would launch it soon and on being asked on the price, they played silent.

Finally it was announced yesterday and boy, at RS 31000 its a steal. I mean it only makes sense to use a iPhone if you can managed to steal it. I dont know whether its Apple who is making money or its Mr. Bharti or Mr. Vodafone but its definitely a high high price for a gadget like iPhone.

I do not plan to buy it any more. A price like INR 15000 is a better price. If you want to lock your customer then have him upfront pay somthing like Rs 10000 and then adjust that against his monthly bill but at Rs 31 K, its a straight case of fleece.

I am sure there are people out there who would have this kind of money to blow it here but I dont see iPhone getting the success it got in US. By the way, today morning my friend Sudhir sent me a mail citing some of the reasons for not buying iPhone. Incase it matter here is the list

1. You can only sync music and video through iTunes. Want to drag-and-drop content from your hard-drive? Would like to sync music from another store -- from Amazon, for example? You are out of luck.

2. You can only install apps through iTunes. Never before has a cellphone maker slammed the door to an open development enviornment and received nothing but praise for doing so. Imagine Microsoft creating a gated software ecosystem and installing themselves as the gatekeeper. They would be eaten alive by the press. Apple gets a free pass.

3. Apple deletes useful applications. Nullriver's modem app went to the grave with no reason stated. Apple's digital business is dependent on the music and movie industry's whims. How long before the industry dictates which applications we can run?

4. Apple might not accept apps which might be detrimental to its own business. We won't hold our breath for competitive products to appear on the iPhone anytime soon.

5. You can only run one third-party application at a time. An instant messenger that runs in the background and collects messages while you are away? Not happening.

6. Apple might not allow app vendors to open up their apps. The terms of the NDA that potential application developers for the iPhone need to sign, effectively restrict redistribution of the source. Apple has created OSX on the back of FreeBSD; Safari on KHTML, SproutCore library used in MobileMe, and now they have built a layer on top that excludes others. Nik at TechCrunchIT laments that "the same community who demand all from Microsoft, feel gifted and special when Apple give them an inch of rope... Applications can only be installed from a single source, iTunes, and open source applications and distribution is near impossible. How do you install an iPhone application without iTunes? Where are the community advocates arguing for a standard interface, openess and free code?"

7. Limited Bluetooth use. The iPhone 3G has Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR but can you transfer files over Bluetooth? Does it support A2DP? Stereo Bluetooth? No on all counts. As of now, all you get from Bluetooth are headset voice calls, and that's it.

8. No copy-paste. This might be more of an interface issue that Apple is seeking to solve, than anything else. But it only underlines the drawbacks of a walled garden. If development was as open as say, it is on the Palm platform -- you would have a hundred different solutions by now, and at least one you could actually use. This also underlines how much the innovative spirit is killed by a controlled development environment. The iPhone ecosystem doesn't encourage software tinkering and probably won't spur garage breakthroughs that drive the industry forward.

9. No MMS. While you can e-mail photos, multimedia messaging is absent from the device. And speaking of videos...

10. No video recording. In the world of YouTube, the iPhone 3G does not offer video recording.

11. No voice command. For a touch-screen-only phone, voice controls would have been a huge plus for hands-free or one-handed control. Can we expect this functionality to be added by a third-party app?

12. Hardware locked to carriers. You cannot use any SIM card with this GSM device. How stupid is that? Hello monopolies, goodbye competition. Thanks to carrier lock-in when the phone launches in India, the iPhone 3G might not even enjoy 3G until months afterwards. How do you like them apples?

Sorry Airtel, Sorry Vodafone, you guys disappoint modern India. Either you are trying to make some money by selling handset which you didn't create or you are letting Apple make money through us which you can easily handle, after all building these millions of telecom users should actually mean that we should be getting things for lesser price then otherwise.


Upanshu Singhal said...

Cost of iPhone to Apple is somewhere around $475, they sell it to AT&T in US for $600. But AT&T is still selling for $200, how? They actually make money with a minimum 2 year contract with the customer, where the minimum monthly bill will be around $50 and phone will be locked.

In India, Airtel and Vodafone does not have contract kind of plan, so they will sell for the full blown price.

But, even if they are charging so high INR 31K, then why the hack they are selling the locked phone. If you buy it from Airtel, then you can not use it for IDEA.

I want to see how many people will go to buy the phone in Midnight. India is not US.

Nandan Jha said...

Thanks Upanshu. Thats a great data to have.

To update more, there were large size ads in today's papers from Airtel so they are spending lot of money. There was a decent press as well, with a story in 'supplement - HT City', aimed for young and peppy.

I am fairly certain that by Deepawali, the prices would come down to at least 5K for each of the model and by the end of year, we will have better schemes to choose from.

Manish Syal said...

nandan I got the 3g last month and using for a month now . I never thought that I would stand for 3 hour in line to get this. I waited long time for 3g to come in. What ever you wrote the comments are right but I would have still bought it if it was 700$ instead of 200$. The reason I bought is that the Internet access is really cool. infact I read all your post while I am travelling. It also has iPod so works as a music system in my car. Do not rely on gps. Not a true gps.actually I bought new gps. it works greaT in US But agreed may not work that great in India .

Nandan Jha said...

Syal - I think the value of gadget is not in question but the fact that its much more expensive here then in US.

Even at Rs 31000, one gets locked for 2 years with Airtel or Vodafone and I heard that they have to assure a monthly bill of Rs 3000 for data and voice.

NoPretense said...

Thanks, Friend, a lot for reinforcing my views on the hype surrounding the IPhone. I have handled a US imported model used by on of my colleagues whose US based son had gifted it to him. I was zapped by the interface and the play of icons, the huge screen with a fabulous resolution, the finger scrolling etc. But that is all on the surface.

The value and money equation does not work in favour of it in India at current prices and schemes. One of my colleagues had been seriously contemplating buying one before it was launched, but the pricing is playing a big deterent, so are the facts enumerated so handily by you.

Coming to value, let me spill the beans, I tell you what all I can do with my simple SE Java mobile phone with an airtel GPRS:
1. I can browse net. It is really good with an Opera Mini and its srcreen resolution.
2. I can book/cancel train tickets.
3. I can book movie tickets.
4. I can chat on Yahoo, gmail, AIM.
5. I can view google maps with precise location.
6. I can make calls.
7. I can take snaps.
8. I can take movies and send MMSes.
9. I can play any MP3 song and transfer through a USB/Bluetooth connection.
10. I can use any MP3 as a ringtone.
11. I can do voice dialing and all othe rvoice functions are available.
12. I can load any java based games apps. I browse net, useing opera mini and the experience is unparalleled. I browse all webmails, my office oulook webaccess on it.
13. I can view PDF documents through Gmail. Adobe must develop a java pdf reader for java phones.
list can be longer, but off the cuff these are all I can remember. The 'can' in above needs to be replaced with a 'do'

So why should I look towards an IPhone, just for the killer looks, and the hype?