The challenges for iPhone in India: consumer perception

The other day I was chatting with a friend of mine who could be labeled as the ideal target audience for an iPhone: gadget savvy, iPod user, upwardly mobile, higher income group. When I asked him if he is going to buy the iPhone, he said a firm ‘no’. Reasons: his Nokia phone has a 5 mega pixel camera (versus iPhone’s 2 megapixel), his phone has an accelerometer (referring to the Accelerometer Plugin for Nokia N95) and so on. On the blogosphere there are literally hordes of users against the iPhone, advising others not to go in for the over-priced, over-hyped iPhone which lacks a lot of features. The common cribs (apart from the price are):

Camera: its common to find a 3 megapixel camera even in low & mid-level phones in India. So the iPhone with a lowly 2 mega pixel camera is seen as a rip off. I am no photography expert but I am told that this whole higher-the-megapixel-better-the-picture thing is a myth. Read more about it here, here and here. And here’s a brilliant article explaining why more megapixels in an iPhone camera will make it worse, not better. And let’s not forget that a Nokia N95 with a higher resolution camera is far thicker than an iPhone – kuch paane ke kuch khona padta hai.


Since the high end phones have cameras with flash, auto focus etc., it is harder to explain the 2MP camera in an iPhone. I would use a camera phone (any phone) for those spontaneous photos. If I need good quality snaps, I would use a digital camera. So for me a 2MP vs. a 5MP is not a deal breaker. But apparently, it is so for many in India. This will be a huge negative in India. Curiously, I came across this about the iPhone being the most popular camera phone on Flickr, higher than the N95. Wonder why? Possibly because of the ease of use of the phone. It is simple to upload, blog or email snaps in an iPhone, since everything is integrated. Yes, it is also possible in a smartphone, but the iPhone makes it easier & simpler. Check out the Photos taken with iPhone group on Flickr.

No SMS forwards, No MMS, No video recorder, no mp3 ringtones: possible through several 3rd party apps. See this and this for SMS forwards. MMS is also possible through this. How common is MMS anyway to be a must-have in smartphones? Yes, the lack of a video recorder is a huge drawback. It is apparently possible through paid apps. mp3 ringtones are possible through iTunes (though not with custom ringtones). I am sure some Googling of how to go about it through tweaks will give you the answers. Lack of free transfer of mp3 ringtones is another drawback for the Indian user.

Lack of flash on the Safari browser: this for me is a trivial reason. The mobile experience is mind blowing. Being able to see the web page as is, pinch and expand features are unheard of in other phones. Yes, I have used Opera Mini too.

The criticism is not going to stop. Competition from Nokia, HTC Diamond and Samsung Instinct is already on. With the iPhone, unless one experiences the joy of the integrated approach, ease of use one, the web apps and user experience one cannot counter the arguments rationally. There is one thing working in Apple’s favour – fan following, loyalty – and its not a rational reason. It’s an emotional reason which is always more powerful. When was the last time consumers waited with bated breath for a competitor’s phone?

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