Can The iPhone Survive Asia?

I recently read an interesting article stating that Apple expects to sell some 10 million iPhones this year, helped by launches in the Pac/Rim region. The model coming to China and Japan is expected to include 3G functionality, but as the industry moves toward HSDPA, the 3G iPhone may still find itself catching up with Asian users’ demands, making it instantly archaic in speed the moment it hits the ground. According to IDC, the volume of mobile data traffic is expected to rise as mobile Internet gains in popularity.

“As users become more comfortable and more compelled to use their phone to access the Internet, operators are poised to gain from greater data usage,” said the research house in a statement. The IDC also reported that the sky is blue and the Earth is round (sorry couldn’t resist).

Okay back to my thoughts on this.

The article questions Asia’s attraction to the iPhone. I feel similarly. Look at Japan for example. Again does the iPhone hold much relevance? I’m not even sure the iPhone elicits a yawn from Japanese power mobile users when comparing it to say NTT Docomo’s best and brightest mobile devices. I also think the iPhone’s high price and limited features will be a turnoff. No true MMS, no video capabilities – it could be the equivalent of the Pet Rock. A novelty item that really doesn’t do much more than a high powered Tomigachi.

As for China – I’ll concede Apple is looking at a massive opportunity: the world’s largest cellular market at over 500 million users. However, nine out of 10 phones are estimated to be unlocked in the country– where Apple negotiates exclusivity with a carrier, cost to consumers is bound to be an issue. This includes both the price of the device and the potential cost of switching carriers.

I’ll be curious to see how the iPhone makes its way to Asia and whether the countries help ensure Steve Job’s global domination plans. Something to keep in mind: Apple is expecting 10 million iPhones to be sold in year 1. Motorola sold 50 million RAZR’s in 2 years. He’s got some ground to cover folks…

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