iPhone 5C and 5S India launch: some surprises and reinforcements

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When the iPhone 5C and 5S prices were officially announced by Apple India, the reaction was along expected lines. People were shocked at the astronomical price tag and some called it delusional pricing. Not surprisingly the Indian tech blogs (which border on anti-Apple anyway) mocked the pricing (in fact, that tone was adopted the day 5C was announced in the US) and so did the Twitterati. To be fair, paying Rs.53,500 (approx $857) for a phone is a bit much; and Rs.71,500 ($1146) is almost a crime.

I was expecting a tepid response for the launch. After all, India has never been an Apple-loving country. The Mac, like everywhere else was a niche product here. Most Indians were exposed to Apple after the launch of iPod here and the number perhaps increased with the launch of iPhone. Yet, it has been seen perceived as an over-hyped, ‘poor-value’ product by most, especially after the growth of Android over the last few years. In that  context, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction (thus far) to the launch of iPhone 5S & & 5C here. Admittedly, it is just the first day of launch but going by the buzz in social media and articles in tech media, the response has been positive. Sure, it is nowhere near the hysteria  seen elsewhere in the world but a pleasant surprise nevertheless. The surprises around the launch have been:

Contract pricing: I had wondered aloud on Twitter about the reasons for the lack of contract pricing in India. I was told that it is because of the fear of customer flight from the telecom providers and there have been bad precedents in the past with contract pricing.  RCom surprised everyone by offering a 2-year contract. What’s more, users will be able to pick up the 16GB variants of the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S without any downpayment. The onus on the monthly payment has been transferred to credit card companies and what’s more, true unlimited usage including voice calls across the country across all carriers and unlimited 3G data with no FUP caps is an even bigger promise. Going by the comments on social media, there seem to be many takers for this offer. I have been an Airtel user and an iPhone 5 owner – even I am tempted to switch to Reliance with this offer. The barrier if any, seems to be the Reliance brand itself, with many questioning its service capabilities. Nevertheless, the myth of contract pricing has been broken in India with this offer.

Reliance iPhone

Public response: going by the articles on tech blogs and updates on Twitter, there are quite a large number of people who were eagerly waiting for the iPhones. And they weren’t just hangers on, they were genuine buyers. Of course, one doesn’t know how many units were made available for the launch day but even a simple queuing up for the launch is an indication of demand and more importantly, affinity.

Now for some points which aren’t surprises but more of reinforcement of belief.

In an article, ‘Apple’s definition of winning‘, John Kirk said:

Companies like Samsung and Microsoft spend their time criticizing those very aspects of Apple that they would most like to emulate. Samsung mocks Apple’s customer’s for standing in line? Microsoft mocks Apple’s tablets for their inability to do “real” work? Don’t kid yourself. They’d both cut off your right arm to have what Apple has.

The scenes at the iPhone 5S/5C launch in India reinforce this point. While high profile models from other big brands have been launched in India recently, not a single one (to my knowledge) evoked this kind of response during launch. So for all the mocking by critics and competitors alike, the end consumer ends up making his own mind. And then there is the gap between social media sentiment and real life. If one were to go only by reactions on social media, the iPhone would have been a non-starter. But the general public – recession be damned, seem to harbour the exact opposite sentiment. The coming weeks will be interesting to watch with the Reliance offer and other competitive offers being implemented.


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