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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.