India resistant to Apple's allure

Cupertino struggling to sell iPhones to Indian consumers, who prefer handsets from Research In Motion and Nokia due to country's limited wireless infrastructure, according to report.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Apple is facing an uphill challenge peddling its iPhone devices to India, the world's second-largest mobile phone market, due to the country's limited wireless network infrastructure. As a result, Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry handsets and Nokia's devices continue to dominate the market.

According to a Monday Bloomberg report, Cupertino ships fewer handsets to India, which has 602 million active mobile subscribers, than it does to Norway. Its marketing efforts are being hindered by the lack of nationwide 3G services which are necessary to take advantage of iPhone's features, noted Gus Papageorgiou, an analyst at Toronto-based Scotia Capital. "Networks in India are just not conducive for Apple--3G networks aren't quite where they are in Western Europe and North America," he explained.

The news agency, citing IDC's research, revealed that Apple shipped 62,043 iPhones to India in the quarter ending Jun. 30, which was fewer than what it ship to Norway, Belgium or Israel. In terms of percentage, Apple accounted for 2.6 percent of India's smartphone shipments in the same timeframe, less than RIM's 15 percent, Samsung Electronic's 21 percent and Nokia's 46 percent, IDC estimated.

Zooming in on RIM's BlackBerry devices, Papageorgiou stated that its BlackBerry Messenger instant messaging service was popular in the country because it was one of the first and functions well on networks a generation behind the speeds offered in the U.S. and Europe.

Local consumers appeared to concur with the analyst's view.

Kshma Shah, a Mumbai-based interior designer, told Bloomberg that the iPhone only really worked when there was Wi-Fi. "3G has barely started in India, and on 2G you just can't have the same experience."

Dance instructor Mahafareenn Sarkari added that only a few of her friends had iPhones and BlackBerry was "where everybody is", so it "made sense" for her to be on the RIM mobile platform, too.

As for Apple's hold on the larger Asia-Pacific region, analysts told ZDNet Asia that Google's Android platform would remain the top OS despite an earlier survey which showed that some Android users were thinking of switching to Cupertino's device.

Jessica Kwee, research analyst at Canalys, noted in the report that the strength of the Android platform was in the support from different vendors such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung. These handset makers were pushing to be at the forefront of mobile technology, incorporating components such as dual-core processors and Long-Term Evolution (LTE), which would likely attract new users to the platform, with some even switching from other OSes, she stated.

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