In many place of the world if you do not use an iPhone, you are one of the great unwashed. Odd places stand out. In Wales all my family — we are talking big numbers of people — use Blackberrys. The writer, while effectively married to the iPod Touch, has given back his iPhone as unneeded. He uses a simple Nokia. You ring a number, a person answers, you talk to the person, then you both hang up. It may do other things but the manual has been lost.
In China the iPhone has done superbly in the fake and illegal import market but it is unlikely to reach the heights that it has in the United States. There simply is too much competition and too many restrictions have been placed on the iPhone.
Price is also a problem where counterfeit iPhones can be bought for as little as $50. And entrepreneurs have been busy importing Apple handsets manufactured for the US and Hong Kong markets. Download software to make the phones compatible with local networks, switched the language settings and you have a working, albeit gray market, iPhone. About 1.5 million of them. The iPhoneys, which look like an iPhone, do not work very well, but hey, you cannot have everything.
Whether the iPhone’s popularity in China will translate into big profits for Apple remains to be seen. Official models sold without a carrier service contract, which is typical here, will be priced at about $735 — far beyond the reach of average consumers. Some analysts say the company’s success in China is far from certain.
China is the world’s largest cellphone market, with about 680 million mobile phone users. China Mobile, which controls 73% of the market, is gunning for Apple with its so-called OPhone. That’s the nickname for its new smart phone operating system based on Google’s Android platform. Already, a slew of major manufacturers including Motorola, HTC and Samsung have signed on to supply China Mobile’s new line of handsets which will compete head-to-head with iPhone.
LA Times reported that Xiao Zhuang, a 14-year-old who attends a prestigious middle school in Beijing, wowed her classmates months ago with a gray-market iPhone. Now, she said, the gadget was positively passe.