News Column

iPhone 5 India Launch Seen Likely on 26 October

October 11, 2012

Gopal Sathe

Apple Inc.'s newest iPhone 5 is likely to start selling in India as early as 26 October, according to news reports including that by BGR India, which first reported it.

Apple introduces its phones in phases across multiple countries, and most people believe that there will be two waves of iPhone launches this month, first on 19 October, and then on 26 October, when India is expected to be included. Apple, however, declined to comment on the introduction of the company's latest phone in India.

Delhi-based Rajat Agrawal, executive editor of global technology publication BGR India, says, "According to our sources, the iPhone 5 will be launching in India in the last Friday of October, which is October 26. Unlike earlier launches where they partnered with Airtel and Aircel, this time Apple will be handling the sales directly. However, at this point of time we are not sure about the number of units available initially considering Apple is facing supply constraints globally."

Price remains a matter of speculation, but most experts agree that it will be at least Rs45,000 for the basic model. The price for an unlocked iPhone 5 in Singapore works out to around Rs.43,600, which is in keeping with last year's iPhone 4S launch, leading many to believe that an iPhone will be priced at Rs.43,000-Rs45,000 in India.

The latest iPhone was unveiled in the US in September and led to predictably mixed reviews, with Wired's headline, "The iPhone 5 is boring, and amazing", summing up the sentiments doing the rounds on Twitter ever since Apple chief executive Tim Cook took the stage to unveil the smartphone.

The new device has a number of evolutionary improvements defined by human limitations -- the screen couldn't get wider since the design mandate was that you should be able to use it one handed. The screen couldn't become sharper because Apple's claim about retina display is that the human eye cannot distinguish individual pixels beyond this point. The phone can only become so much lighter, because a minimum battery life has to be maintained.

On the other hand, the CPU (central processing unit) and graphics card are both twice as fast, while the phone is thinner and lighter.

On 21 September, the smartphone went on sale in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Britain. Apple said it will be rolling out the new iPhone 5 in 100 countries, the fastest such exercise for an iPhone so far.

The release of the iPhone in India before Diwali is likely to boost sales as people purchase new devices during the festival season.

The new phone's biggest feature, outside of the changed dimensions, is that it works on the LTE network, which can be faster than even a wi-fi connection. However, it has also been clarified that this will not be compatible with the 4G networks that are being rolled out in India now.

That, coupled with the fact that many of the other changes are only minor, could actually hamper the adoption of the device in India. As such, India remains a market where low-cost feature phones dominate sales, and according to an October report by the research firm IDC, the iPhone only makes up 2.6% of smartphone sales in India, well behind Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd's at 21% and Research In Motion Ltd's BlackBerry at 15%.

Since India does not have the subsidized pricing that you see in other markets, the costs of owning an iPhone become very high here, said the IDC report. A device costing $199 in the US costs $705 in India, not even taking into account the relative purchasing power of people living in both countries.

For this reason, even though there has been a lot of hype around the new iPhone, it's safe to say that it won't make Apple a major player in the India market overnight, even if it outperforms the iPhone 4S handily.

Source: (c) 2012 the Mint (New Delhi). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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