Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Apple needs to get its iPhone act together in India & China by H1-2010

While most of the press has devoted its attention on the 30K phones sold in China, one must not forget that it has sold not more than 55k phones in India in the last 12 months.

China and India are important as they are among the only large handset markets which are growing. Globlally handset markets are declining though the smartphone category of the overall market is growing.

It is expected that Apple would have finalized a partnership with Verizon by 2010. It is entry in most large markets would be complete by 2010. Most of the other markets where the iPhone has a 4-6% market share would move up to a 10% market share with the addition of second operator. All these actions would play out in 2010 and early 2011 and provide it with its expected growth.

However the issue is, what next? Where will the next driver for grwith be?

This is when China and India will really start to matter.

Inspite of great enthusiasm for the iPhone ( 2 million + phones in the grey market) the low volumes for the iPhone in China and India have been blamed on the price by many analysts. However, the real issue is the distribution of iPhones by Apple and a disregard of the power of the operator in the two markets.

While an AT&T would bend backwards and go out of its way to please Apple and subsidize its handset, Bharti Airtel or Vodafone in India could care less. They are in the business of selling mobile phone connections and not handsets and will definitely not subsidize the iPhone.

Additionally the iStores and the operator stores don't have the reach to distribute the iPhone in such a large market.

RIM in India learnt these lessons in 2009 and started selling unlocked phones via its distributor, Redington.

Apple has less than 12 months to sort these issues, Andriod is already there and Windows Mobile 7 is coming by end of 2007. Both of them would be driven aggressively by HTC who is much stronger in Asia compared to Apple. Dell would also make the Chinese market competitive. Lastly who can ignore Nokia in China and India.

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