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Apple of everyone’s eye?

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The latest iphone has become the rage for various reasons
The latest iphone has become the rage for various reasons

The Apple iPhone has become the year’s hottest buy, but is it worth the trouble?

It can go from iPhone to iBrick in the blink of an eye. Yet, it’s this year’s hottest item.

Macintosh products, created by Apple Inc., did have a fiercely loyal, if relatively niche, following. However, after the iPod and its successful halo effect, which boosted sales across the world, the company began to be seen as hip, individual and distinctive. So, by the time Apple released its breathlessly awaited iPhone this July, there were people camped outside their stores, weathering beating rain and blazing sunshine to be the first to flaunt it.

Unfortunately, the iPhone has been locked into a two-year service agreement with service provider AT&T in America. Which means Indian users will have to wait at least another year for their iPhones.

In theory.

In reality, you’ve probably already seen a number of smug iPhone owners waving their new toys. “The market is flooded with AT&T sim cards,” says Suresh, of the popular MobileZone, set in Fountain Plaza, Egmore. “In Hong Kong and Singapore they’re unlocking so many, so fast that they don’t even have time to take them out. And now even the local boys are doing the unlocking,” he adds. It currently costs about Rs. 2,000 to get an iPhone unlocked. “But you can do it yourself,” says Vishal, who just unlocked his friend’s newly-imported phone, “You just need to do some research on the Net. Then, all you need is a wifi connection…”

The phone made its furtive debut in India only in September as it took two to three months to unlock. Dealers, however, have been flooded with queries ever since it was announced. The iPhone was initially selling for Rs, 45,000 in India, even though its actual price is only about $399 (around Rs. 15,600). It’s currently selling at around Rs. 25,000, and prices are expected to fall further.

“But we keep telling people not to buy it,” says Suresh. “But the initial experience is just awesome — the coolest part is how you can zoom in and out with your fingers,” says Cherry Pachisia, who’s still experimenting with her iPhone. Then you start missing the small things Nokia has. Yet, sales show no sign of slowing down. “We’ve had people walking in with five iPhones they’ve brought from the U.S., and asking us to unlock them,” says Suresh. Jayan Mamman, who bought his phone from New York’s Apple store says he was asked to buy it on his credit card so the company could ensure no user buys more than two phones in their lifetime, to prevent reselling.

Jayan has experienced only one instance of his unlocked phone hanging so far. Prithvi Chandrasekhar, a young music producer, wasn’t quite as lucky. His iPhone got locked just a month after he bought it. He’s remarkably unfazed though. “My friend just reloaded the software and it started working again,” he says. Prithvi’s a dedicated Mac-addict. “I have all generations of the iPod, a Macintosh computer, the Macbook and a Powerbook,” he says, adding, “I’m willing to look past all the phone’s flaws for the user interface, clarity and speed… Anything you want is just right there, at your fingertips.” He adds that, according to the Mac Forums, Apple is releasing two more models, and the iPhone will be out in India by March.

Meanwhile there a ‘Free The iPhone’ petition doing the rounds, urging people to “campaign for Wireless Freedom.” Think this is much ado about nothing? Maybe you should take a look at popular social networking site Facebook, which already has a rash of iPhone groups, including a particularly popular one named “I don’t care if I have to sell some vital organs, I am getting the iPhone.”

SHONALI MUTHALY

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