tech

Apple's iPhone could find Asia tough to crack

27 Comments

The iPhone 3G, which Apple is billing as twice as fast and half as expensive as the debut model, will roll out in cities from Tokyo to Sydney on Friday -- but it could face challenges in Asia it will not have elsewhere.

The company is betting the new phone's third generation (3G) capabilities, such as faster Internet access and file transfer, will make the phone a hit. Like the first version, the new model also has an iPod built in.

Many analysts are upbeat about its prospects, seeing Apple as a brand with a strong cachet in tech-savvy Asia.

Mancy Li wants to get her hands on Apple's newest version of the iPhone, but she won't bother to queue up in Hong Kong when it is released in Asia this week.

"I want to get one because it is trendy. It has a touch screen, it looks pretty and it's made by Apple," the 22-year-old visual arts student says.

But she's prepared to wait and see what happens to the price of running the new version of the phone, which Apple hopes will become as big a global hit as its iconic iPod music player.

"It is going to do well," Aloysius Choong, of Singapore-based industry research group IDC, said.

"Apple is a strong brand in Asia and this is their maiden mobile phone offering in Asia. Just the Apple aura or the Apple halo means that there will be non-Apple users who will look at the product."

But in a region where having the latest gadget is almost an obsession, black market debut-version iPhones are already widely available, serviced by countless shops that "unlock" the software to allow them to operate.

With the phone already in circulation, the novelty factor will be less, which could emphasize the importance of pricing for the new model.

And that could prove to be an obstacle. Like elsewhere, Apple is only allowing the iPhone for sale through a limited number of operators -- whose pricing plans are not always particularly inexpensive.

Hong Kong users could pay the equivalent of up to $65 a month under a two-year contract, a steep price in a market where monthly mobile packages often cost one-fifth of that.

In Australia, Telstra says customers who sign up for packages around $30 a month will be able to buy the cheapest iPhone 3G for around $270.

Pricing has not been announced in New Zealand by Vodafone, the country's largest mobile communications carrier, but is likely to be crucial in deciding the iPhone's success.

"If Vodafone can get close to Telstra's pricing in Australia, I think they will be on to a winner," says Scott Bartley, reviews editor of PC World New Zealand.

The iPhone could also face an uphill battle in Japan, where handsets allow users to watch television and pay for goods like a credit card -- neither of which the Apple phone can do.

"I can foresee the iPhone storming the rest of Asia but not Japan," said Yusuke Tsunoda, a telecom analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center. "Compared with Japanese cell phones, it is not technologically superior."

In the Philippines, meanwhile, where text-messaging is now a routine way to communicate, the phone's on-screen keyboard -- instead of the regular buttons of a traditional cell phone -- may be a turn-off.

"This could limit its appeal to the Filipinos, who love to text," said tech journalist Kendrick Go of the Manila Times.

He said pricing could also be a factor in the Philippines, where much of the population lives on $2 a day or less.

"The iPhone's popularity in the Philippines will likely be confined to the high-end market," Go said. "It is just too expensive for the average consumer."

Finally, some consumers could be turned off if the iPhone becomes too much of a success -- and loses its cachet as a status symbol.

"Apple wants to make a big impact but it does not want to make too big an impact in the sense you want to create an image of scarcity and exclusivity," said the IDC's Choong.

Mancy Li, in Hong Kong, says the iPhone would lose its appeal for her if everyone had one.

"I won't get one if I see too many people using it," Li says. "It won't be special anymore."

© Wire reports

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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You cannot even send MMS (sha-mail/photo-mail) messages from iphone, so it will certainly be a flop.

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Doing less but doing it well. Exactly what the IPod did.

Sure the Japanese traditionnal keitais are feature packed. But the psychopath who designed the user interface make absolutely everything a pain to use:

-Storage of data phone memory or sd card... sd is slow, data have to be put inside the phone memory to be used in any application (background/address book)

-Access to the camera dead slow (starting camera application please wait... wait... hemm a little more... ok... now you can change the settings that are never remembered)

-GPS... there is one... somewhere in the phone... promise... it's the 12 submenu in the web browser 3 option... sometimes...

-Media player... music have to be converted with software so badly written that it require XP japanese ONLY, not even the internationnal version with language pack is supported, or even work.

-Media player again... that popping noise was the battery commiting sepuku... hope you where not planning to actually use your phone today.

-Flip-flop-multi-flap thingamagig... it's not a phone it's a transformer in disguise...or a jigsaw puzzle... you choose... but don't expect to be able to answer fast...

Yeah sure... there is really no place for the IPhone... but the masochist are enjoying every second of the curent situation...

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YES you can MMS off the Iphone its just not a apple bundled app on the current version.

As well china was dishing out hacked Iphones as soon as the hard wire crack came out. If you have the old one with version 1.1.1 software the international menu lets you flip between 2 different languages with a click and you dont have to press the same button 15 times to get the character you want.

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The only challenge (and not a serious one) the iPhone faces in Asia is from all the laughable copies available at every street market. You should see all the iPhone copies around Shanghai markets. Just 'normal' phones with a crudely stuck Apple 'iPhone' sticker & logo on the front. Its comical to be offered one of these by street vendors who go out of their way to convince you its the real thing! I think Steve Jobs would find this hilarious if he visits Shanghai. Or, at least, he could do what Giorgio Armani did when he wandered around a so-called plush 'Armani' store on the Shanghai waterfront when he learned, much to his surprise, that his own company had allegedly opened their first 'flagship store' in China! Needless to say, the staff who work there had no idea who he was.

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there are a ton of iPhone copies in the U.S. As well with Samsung and Nokia stickers on them.

IPhone: unlimited data on the cell phone network for ~$50 a month. At home the Edge network (I have the older model) wouldn't work due to a crappy cell signal on the road edge is fairly good. Only the big cities have 3G networks.

I don't like the audio on the bottom. Won't play flash files yet. Use of the keyboard gets better with use.

No 1Seg for Japan may turn some off.

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Coligny at 08:36 AM JST - 7th July

Doing less but doing it well. Exactly what the IPod did....

Could't quote everything but man you otta change your phone none of those applies to mine. You can use Win XP in english you only have to change your settings while using the app. My media player is not really slow and the battery last like for a day and and a bit more if playing music the hole day which I find OK for a mobile.

I like the Iphone cause is fancy, but it's just can't be use for an office day.

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My iPhone has SMS. You can send photos by email. GoogleTalk for IM thru Safari.

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My iPhone has SMS. You can send photos by email. GoogleTalk for IM thru Safari.

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RMGTTF... No AU softcrap explicitly ask for JP version of XP. As I told you, not even the international version with MUI in japanese was working.

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Not much reason for it in Japan. Phones here can run circles around this one and several companies will soon release superior versions that are very similar in type and funcation. So if you don't have an Ipod and want one, maybe. But other than that, keep your fast effective camera phone and ipod separate. Helps with battery issues not to have it all in one anyway.

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Seems odd to me that Softbank is not pushing this more. There have been no TV ads. Where are Cameron and Brad with their iphones. Not even any posters or print advertisements aththe stores. Are they counting on word of mouth or are they purposely consigning it to failure. Then we will hear nothing but 'yapari' We only like our domestic models.

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No! Please, no more Brad or Cameron commercials! Especially Cameron; too annoying!

It is a little strange that Softbank isn't pushing it. Only 4 days away and not one single CM of it. Could have something to do with Apple, not allowing Softbank to promote it. On the same note, I have noticed that WillCom has increased commercials for their smart phones though.

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ey Coligny

RMGTTF... No AU softcrap explicitly ask for JP version of XP. As I told you, not even the international version with MUI in japanese was working.

I think I have the phone you're talking bout - you need to go into Regional preferences, and set the code page to Japanese before it will work. It is not enough to have the code page enabled - it must be the default code page.

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Softbank probably isn't promoting the iPhone because they don't have to. The iPhone sells itself. It may also be because customers may not be able to get their hands on an iPhone on the promised date, and it'll be first come first served. Softbank and Apple will also receive free press from all of the wide shows and news programs doing stories on its release.

Softbank has to make an iPhone commercial with the dog though...

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Tsunoda (and several comments here) miss the point of the iPhone. It's not about its features in relation to current Japanese phones. It's about the UI (as Coligny said), ease-of-use, and the cool factor. There will be no problem selling the iPhone here. Consider, also, that the iPhone isn't really marketed as a smart phone, nor is it seen as one by the general public. This will allow people who are afraid of the complexity of some smart phones to get a taste. Remember that the subsidies will make the iPhone the cheapest smart phone for sale in Japan.

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Softbank isn't promoting the iPhone because Docomo is being let in on the action.

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no made in china and japan

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For years Japan has led the way in cell phone technology, being well ahead of Europe, which was itself ahead of the US.

The iphone is a pretty thing, but it does not have functionality that is particularly new or innovative to the Japanese, but rather stuff they have had for years. The touch screen is innovative, but I expect other phones to have that in the near future.

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I agree with the original article, I just can't see this thing selling well in Japan.

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Colleague at work said that there is a waiting list developing at Softbank and the mad dash is to the smaller Softbank shops that not yet have a waiting list.

Asia may be tough to crack, but Japan is open and ready.

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As I've said before, I've been waiting for this a long time (I also need a good mp3 player), but I'm NOT going to pay 7,000 yen a month for the plan that comes along with this 'cheap' iphone. Just because it has all these nice functions does not mean the companies should force customers to subscribe to an expensive plan. Unless someone confirms that we can get it with the white plan only (I might be willing to pay up to 1000 yen extra for limited internet access), then I am not getting it. Disappointed, to say the least.

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Which bright spark said the iPhone is not 'technologically superior' to Japanese phones?

Yusuke Tsunoda, a telecom analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center. “Compared with Japanese cell phones, it is not technologically superior.”

Yusuke, you win the "Dipstick of the day" award!

The iPhone is WAY more advanced than the average Japanese cell phone! I paid more for my AU phone than the iPhone is priced at, but the only websites I can view are crappy Japanese ones!

I'm not going to bother buying an iPhone when they come out, as it's easier just to wait and buy it from the recycle store after someone gets bored with it after two months (like they did with my current laptop, valued at $2600, I got it for $1400 and it was only 7 weeks old!). Then, I'll just use one of the easily affordable unlock programs available on the web, and use my current pin card in it. (And yes, it will work)

There's some good videos and information about the iPhone and the new 3G model here: http://www.inyouriphone.com

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The iPhone is WAY more advanced than the average Japanese cell phone

By technologically superior, I think he meant that it didn't cater to the Japanese demand for paying w/ your phone.

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Since Japanese like all things trendy when it comes to the youth I don't see it a real problem with the iphone breaking ground in Asia/Japan. I have considered buying the new iphone but the only thing I do not like about it is that it is wide and heavy. When I was in Japan last and rented a cell phone what I liked about them was that they were so light. Not even my Razor was lighter than the Japanese one I rented. However, it also didn't come with all the perks that the iphone has so I guess it is a trade off. I'm still deciding....

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Im sure most of you know but what Japanese phone will download direct from youtube, or even let you load two or three DVDs to watch. So it dosent pay for you, funny what did people do before the phones they have now. Does this mean pockets are obsolete. The data plan is for unlimited connection so you can surf the web all day anywhere. Or you can hit a wifi hot-spot as well.

I have had mine since they went on sale. I have had the latest Japanese phones as well as a slew of nokia's. Believe it or not I really prefer the Iphone. With all the available apps threw installer you can build a pretty convenient phone.

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I think I have the phone you're talking bout - you need to go into Regional preferences, and set the code page to Japanese before it will work. It is not enough to have the code page enabled - it must be the default code page.

Yeah that makes it work. All programs that support multiple languages will also become Japanese though but you can always change the settings back and restart and voila. I used to have that Lismo thing

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Oh people... I love you... Thanks a lot Hoolie...

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