Why the iPhone won't be in Asia

16 Jan 2008
00:00

Apple is in the headlines yet again -- this time it's an ultra-thin notebook and plans for a movie download service.

But more significant for mobile operators is the news that iPhone is driving more traffic to the web than any other device.

A New York Times story says that at Christmas time Google saw more data traffic from iPhone than rival smartphones. The number declined after Christmas but nonetheless the figure impresses: iPhones account for just 2% of smartphones worldwide, compared with Symbian's 63% market share.

The story underlines that iPhone's financial pulling power is equal to its hype. The device helped AT&T post a record in net customer adds in its first two months selling the iPhone.

For all that, it will be some time before Asian consumers (excluding Japan) can buy the iPhone for themselves.

Apple and China Mobile recently broke off talks over selling the device in the mainland after the Chinese carrier rejected Apple's insistence on a 30% commission.

An executive at a non-mainland operator told me the company was keen on selling the iPhone, but just couldn't raise Apple's interest. Apple doesn't have a senior executive in Asia trying to push the device and is conducting negotiations from Cupertino at a leisurely pace.

It's worth remembering developing countries have never been happy hunting grounds for Apple's high-end devices.

The iPhone is a low-volume, high-margin device demanding a fat airtime commission. In other words, not for developing Asia. So far Apple has shown no interest in developing Singapore or Hong Kong. Until it does, the iPhone's sole Asian channels will be eBay or the gray market.

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