So, we eat humble pie. Vodafone confirms a month old Business Standard story, it will launch the iPhone in India along with Australia, the C…

So, we eat humble pie. Vodafone confirms a month old Business Standard story, it will launch the iPhone in India along with Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey, later this year. What will be the price? According to the BS story, the 8GB was slated to cost Rs 27 – 28k. Assuming custom duties on cellphones is 5%, at the current retail price in the US of Rs 16k (8GB) and Rs 20k (16GB), a very conservative estimate taking into account allied taxes and duties should be around Rs 21k (8GB) and around 25k (16GB), which would be needed to put it on par with the current rates in the greymarket.

However, what value does an official release add? The most attractive feature of the iPhone is the ability to add third party applications, the variety and functionality of which is what makes it great as a platform. Having used the vanilla 16GB version without any applications, I can attest to it being a rather boring piece of gadgetry without the added third party functionality.Lastly, I doubt landing costs will permit it to debut at a price south of Rs 21k for the 8GB version, which means Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) will have to use some of its $2 billion Indian warchest to subsidize it. If it does, it will go on to lock people into draconian plans to prevent them from defecting, and we all know how that will work out. Hint: Tons of people applying for cell phone insurance to claim loss. Regardless, the iPhone, in its vanilla operator locked form, is a crippled piece of great hardware, one whose true value can only be unlocked. Pun intended.

As an aside, in the past two months, through my iPhone, I have detected over 300 wifi spots in the Bombay suburbian area within a 13km range. While over 80% of these are protected, it would be interesting to explore the potential of creating a wifi-mesh. The iPhone has a Wifi spot chronicler that points spots on a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) map mashup, if anyone out there is doing the same, drop in a line in the comments.

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  1. I do, delhi

  2. Sanjay Vijayakumar Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    I do too – Bombay

  3. Neeraj Gulati Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    tons around here, banglore. gr8 post

  4. Great post, will wait for the launch

  5. Harshil Karia Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Hey Cerius,

    Nice Post. The 300 odd networks you have seen are probably individual wireless routers. So i doubt the possibility of creating a mesh exists at all. A mesh needs dual radios, A & G. one to recieve, one to send. And it needs equipment that is much more powerful (and also more bulky). Best case scenario would be for a company to create Wi Fi hotspots around the city at strategic locations and charge its patrons. Reliance has already started using WiMax which they are converting into Fixed Wireless for homes. They could easily exploit their WiMax capabilities to transport bandwidth to various locations and then convert that bandwidth at certain locations and then form wi fi hotspots till ofcourse they can create a full fledged mesh.

    Have you used the iPhone in the US? It doesn't seem boring there because the applications on the standard phone were tailor made for that country. Here the functionality of certain standard applications is limited. But you're right. With more third party applications, it will be a lot more interesting – and a lot more relevant for Indians.

  6. Hi,

    I've been using the iphone for the past 6-7 months in delhi now. but i've never heard of this feature which you pointed out. "The iPhone has a Wifi spot chronicler that points spots on a Google map mashup"

    Am i missing something ?

  7. @Harshil: A wifihotspot, if anything, is a bad idea. Besides users on company accounts, only a marginal lot pay the Rs 100 odd per hour premium to have internet connectivity when it costs half that monthly to have email access. Maybe in airports, but nowhere else. Bandra, for eg, has atleast three places where regulars pay for the coffee and get the wifi free. Secondly, out of the 300, not probably, all of them are private wifi routers. There is a way around it though, http://tinyurl.com/4ppn3w. Wimax, as you know, still has tons of teething troubles. You are partly wrong about indigenous apps, no matter how customized, they can beat the volume, depth and innovation of third party apps (both paid/adsupported)

  8. Just in case, did you guys check out http://www.fon.com ?

  9. Harshil Karia Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    @ Cerius: Indigenous apps would be born because of market forces. Indigenious apps would be made by 3rd party developers anyway.

    Wi Fi hotspots at strategic locations run by a single company at prices that can compete with Telecom operators is a tried and tested model worldwide. So you can have 10, 000 routers all over the city at hotspots – the company could engage in tie ups and the like. The consumer wins. Good prices. Good Speeds. Good connectivity.

    Wi Max does have a few problems but wi – max when converted to wi fi for end point consumption is a good option.

  10. First of all, the third party app developers have to be in usa right now and are going to be launched there only. Second, they might get available in future in other countries where apple has iTunes/online purchase stores which doesn't include India. So, it would require a very special endeavor on part of Vodafone to increase sale of iphone in india. Any estimates ? I would wonder if they could sell 10000 iphones per month in india i.e. 0.1% market share after a year.

    Also does anyone know how many macs are there in india ?

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