The company’s devices are priced at a premium. They are tuned to serve more advanced, well-connected markets in the West that have services like 4G LTE. Karthik Subramanian talks to Apple enthusiasts to find out what makes them go gaga over the products
In a recent sketch, American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel parodied the craze for Apple’s products by putting out a fake advertisement for the iPad mini, in which he mocked the entire line-up of the company’s products — from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad to the iPad mini — as being just incremental changes and being essentially the same thing. “Those who line up in front of stores in New York to get the iPad mini must be punched in their faces,” he concluded.
Of course, he was only joking and trying to evoke laughs. Reality is far from that. Every Apple device launch evokes a response that can only be termed as bizarre. Its products are priced at a premium compared to its competitors. Even take the Indian pricing. While the price of the Apple iPhone 5 starts at Rs. 45,500, its nearest competitors from the Android and other mobile phone operating systems — Samsung Galaxy S3 and the likes — are priced at least Rs.10,000 lower.
What is more, some of the iPhone 5’s key features — its uber cool digital assistant Siri or its super speed connectivity via 4G LTE — are not even available for India. At the risk of generalisation, it is still fair to say that most iPhone users in India do not and cannot unlock its full potential. There is simply no denying the fact that the device itself is sheer eye candy and an ego booster for the person who uses it.
So what then drives the Apple cult? Here are the reactions from a section of people who did queue up on the day of the launch of the iPhone 5 in India.
Karthik Kamalakannan, who runs a technology blog www.the4cast.com, has owned an iPhone ever since the launch of the first phone in 2007, pre-ordered the iPhone 5 from three retailers in Chennai so he would get to own the device on the day of its launch (November 2). He has been a fierce Apple advocate on online forums and even public discussions — on FM radio — where he has talked about Apple products being innovative. “The reason why Apple products work better than those of its competitors is because of the close integration between the software and hardware,” he explained. “The company designs its own chips for specific devices and because it manages to pull it off, the experience is optimal for users. That cannot be said for other platforms or devices where different people are in charge of the software and the hardware.”
Despite a crunch in finding the phone on its launch day, Karthik eventually bought his iPhone 5, added it as a “life event” on his Facebook Wall, and has been posting low-light images using his Instagram account.
Another enthusiast who lined up at Apple stores for iPhone 5 was Narayanan Hariharan, an entrepreneur, who was a staunch Android fan and a loner in his own circle of friends who were hardcore Apple fan boys. One wondered whether it was peer pressure that had affected him as he lined up for an iPhone 5 on the launch day, having pre-ordered it online. He already owned two top-of-the-line Android phones, including the Google flagship Nexus. “No pressure of any kind. It boiled down to the biggest grouse over Android phones: the battery,” he said. “The phone is not able to take a heavy workload. The more you keep adding to the Android, the slower it seems to become.”
Shriram Sanjeevi, general manager (business development), Royal Enfield, was one of the many eager for a hands-on experience of the iPhone 5 on the launch day but had to wait as several retailers could not show the stocks to match people’s enthusiasm. After searching for two days, he did eventually catch up with the device and tweeted: “The best part about the iPhone 5 is it is lighter and faster. The longer screen helps one see more things.”
There are a few others, who seem to queue up to get the iPhone or any of Apple devices to be hip but don’t really use the device beyond its basic functions. It is undeniable that the company’s near obsession with the aesthetics of the device, both external and internal design, has paid rich dividends.
There’s an incentive for telecom service providers when it comes to pushing the iPhone in a bigger way than other smartphones, even adding to the marketing blitz for the simple reason that the device paves the way for more data usage. Companies have been struggling to find takers for their 3G data plans and the iPhone provides the opportunity to bundle the schemes.
A senior telecom executive pointed out that while average feature phone users might use up to 200 MB of data a month, power users on smartphones like the iPhone easily consume in excess of 700 MB of data. Though it is easy to get carried away by the hype over the phone’s design, an unbiased look, as many critics and technology bloggers of repute have pointed out, will show that the UI of the Apple’s mobile operating system iOS has started looking a bit boring and even static. It has not changed much at all since the phone debuted in 2007. Newer operating systems such as Windows 8 and the upcoming Blackberry 10 seem to offer more dynamic experiences. Apple still trumps competition with its “software-hardware” harmony. But one hopes to soon see more exciting things from the world’s biggest technology company than just incremental advances.