The carriers face a challenge, given the disappointing response in the Indian market to earlier version of Apple's iPhone
NEW DELHI: India's leading GSM telecom operators, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar, are set to bring Apple's latest iPhone, called iPhone 3G
S, to India in August. The new iPhone 3G S, which offers faster data speeds, a new camera, video recording, compass and voice control, was unveiled in US earlier this week.
In India, Apple has exclusive tie-ups with Bharti and Vodafone and this is one of the few markets where the U.S.-based technology firm has a tie-up with two operators. Bharti and Vodafone jointly account for over 170 million of the over 400 million cellphone users in the country.
Apple had issued a guidance, saying the iPhone 3G S would make its debut in India in August, but refused to specify the date and the pricing for the country. The guidance also added that the handset would be launched in 31 other countries in August. Additionally, as per information made public by Apple, the iPhone 3G S will go on sale in 10 countries, including the US on June 19, and another 32 countries in the month of July.
Both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar did not offer comments to a detailed query sent by ET.
In India, the new iPhone from Apple is set to face competition from smartphones such as Nokia's N97 and similar offerings from BlackBerry and Samsung. Another handset that can be a potential threat to Apple's new product is the Palm's Pre which has just hit the US market, but is currently not available in India.
But, unlike handsets such as Nokia's N97, the new iPhone 3G S will have a unique advantage as it has over 100,000 applications and also enjoys the support of the most vibrant and innovative developer community in this space. This implies, Apple’s product is more than just a technically superior handset, but more of a software platform with thousands of custom-made applications.
However, the catch is that the earlier model of the iPhone's India entry has been a huge failure both in terms of sales (due to an unviable distribution model) coupled with a steep price tag and poor advertising which resulted in the brand failing to connect with customers here.
Also, customers in India who had followed Apple's pricing globally during in other countries and believed that the iPhone would sport a similar price tag of $199 here were put off by the fact that they would have to shell out more than three time the amount to buy the product. Worse still, market watchers say that neither Apple nor Bharti and Vodafone Essar put in the efforts to explain the difference in market dynamics in India which led to the higher pricing here which left customers confused.
Market watchers and analysts also say that Apple's decision to go in with only Bharti and Vodafone Essar in India was flawed, especially considering that GSM operators here are not major players in the handset retail space. This is because, GSM players rarely bundle handsets and restrict such offering to the lower-end phones in non-urban and rural markets.
For consumers, some of the new features that come with the iPhone 3G S include its ability to remember text that has been entered once, thereby eliminating the need to retype e-mail addresses, postal addresses or user names, the digital compass which aids in navigation and a host of features that make it friendly for the disabled. Besides, it also comes with Apple's own earphones along with a multi-button remote, but with a single control key and a mic.