Thursday, June 25, 2009

Culture of the Moment: iPhone Ain't Asia's Apple

Apple, the Cupertino-based computer company, made a huge success here in the States thanks in part of the iPhone. Their feature-packed handset triumphed over established smartphones as its domestic sales forecast is continuing to grow. However, Apple's winning streak may not fare well in the Asian market. Just because their prized gadget won the hearts of the technologically deprived and the uber-techies in America, doesn't mean it will be a clear winner in the Far East.

One hurdle Apple is facing is the fact that the Asian mobile phone market has long grown exponentially. Veteran phone makers such as Motorola, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and Nokia (which is reported to have the largest mobile phone market share) already have a huge influence and advantage over their consumers.

Adding to the problem is how Asian consumers would react to what Americans tout as the "iPhone's futuristic features." Compared to the cellphone technology here in the States, Asia has long experienced mobile e-mail, mobile internet, mobile television, mobile everything! In addition, the availability of competitive touch screen phones is not a problem. Most phones, as a matter fact, are touch navigated so it may be no surprise for them to witness the iPhone's swipe-and-stretch capabilities.

Furthermore, the iPhone's reputation as an easy to use handset might keep Apple's potential market unfazed. In Japan, ease-of-use was never the criteria for purchasing a cellphone. Since the Japanese cellphone market is comprised mostly of bored, materialistic youths that simply crave for new features, Japanese cellphone makers like Panasonic and NEC intentionally use several key combinations to unlock new features. The more complicated it is to discover their handset's potential, the more satisfied their customer base become.

In the end, the iPhone may not be the apple of Asia's eye. Although this presents a road bump for their plan to take over the technosphere, I am very confident that Apple can, at the very least, win a fraction of the "I've-seen-it-all" crowd. They may need a little tweaking here and there, but overall Apple's challenge is to make the venerable iPhone oh so much better. After all, what we treasure as mobile networking now, Asia treasured eons ago.

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