The Great Indian iPhone Catastrophe
Catastrophe is too big a word to be used, specially in technical terms. But that’s the word which came to my mind after seeing the latest happenings surrounding the iPhone 4S launch in India. If the pricing of iPhone 4S was a shocker, the newly released ‘attractive’ data plans from one of the two operators releasing iPhone 4S should be termed disaster. More on that later.
iPhone continues to be jinxed in India. The original iPhone and iPhone 3G never made it to the Indian markets officially (Update: I’m told that iPhone 3G did make it to the Indian shores in August 2008), while the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 were dumped here months after their release elsewhere in the world. This time around, Apple fans in India were hoping to see an early release of iPhone 4S and their wishes were duly fulfilled by two operators – Airtel and Aircel, who announced that the latest iPhone will be released on November 25th. But that happiness was short lived.
The Shocker – iPhone 4S Prices in India
Both Aircel and Airtel have priced the 16GB variant at INR 44,500 (approx $860), while the 32GB variant is priced at INR 50,900 (approx $980) and the 64GB variant is priced at INR 57,500 (approx $1100) which is almost the same price as that of a 11″ Macbook Air here in India!
These prices are possibly the costliest we have seen in the world for an unlocked iPhone 4S. Though it was always expected that unlike iPhone 4, which was priced at INR 35,000 (approx $700), considering the depreciating rupee, the iPhone 4S would be priced above INR 40,000. But people were still shocked to see the final premium price set.
Ironically, we still don’t know for sure as to who sets the price for iPhone in India! By default, everyone would point fingers at Apple, which is logical as well. But, unlike in US, UK, Japan and other places, iPhones are not sold by Apple directly; but are stocked and sold by the operators. But mind you, Apple still decides which operators get to sell the iPhones on its behalf. But neither Apple, nor the operators have come on record to say who decides the final pricing, which does raises some eyebrows.
According to an article from Economic Times, operators had no say in the pricing of iPhone 4S and it is Apple alone who is responsible for this exorbitant pricing in India. But Atul Chitnis, one of India’s best known technologists, believes that the greed of the operators has to be blamed for the current mess. He tweets-
The iPhone is not sold by Apple in India, but by operators who do stock & sell, and hike the prices to feed reverse subsidies
According to Chitnis, Apple only controls lower price level of iPhone and the upper level is decided by operators. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t care to clarify if that is the case. As tech writer, Nimish Dubey says, Apple is mum on this because they cannot afford to hamper their relationship with the Indian operators. No matter who is responsible for this, but ultimately, it’s the Indian consumer who is left unhappy.
The Disaster – iPhone 4S Data plans
But it is not just the pricing of iPhone 4S which is making the Indian Apple fans unhappy, it’s also the
attractive ridiculous reverse subsidy plan announced by Aircel which has left the consumers fuming.
Unlike the 100% money back plans which they had introduced during iPhone 4 launch earlier this year, the best you can manage now is a 50% money back plan. As you can see, the cheapest iPhone 4S tariff plan sets you back by INR 950 (approx $20) per month and gives you just 650MB of 3G data and 350 SMSes, which is like 22MB of 3G data per day. The only saving grace is 3000 minutes of free local+STD calls.
So after paying close to INR 45,000 and then locking up with the carrier for a lousy 2 year contract, you will just be (theoretically) saving INR 22,000 at the end of 24 months! Though the other operator, Airtel is yet to announce its data plan, we won’t be surprised if their offer is somewhat similar to that of Aircel.
Considering these shockers, I wonder how many people will buy the iPhone 4S in India. Of course there will be some crazy ones who buy no matter what the price of iPhone is, but Apple has a lot of things at stake here. If they bother to address these or not remains to be seen.
Image Credit: johanl