Take cover! There’s a device war going on

BLOGGER: ERIC  M. DANIS

Would you queue for 80 hours to be the first in line to get the new iPhone 4s? One eager consumer in Sydney did just that. In fact, on the iPhone 4’s release day, lines of waiting people snaking around the block were a familiar sight worldwide. But there was one place where the reaction was less enthusiastic: Asia’s emerging markets, and this could open the door to Asian handset makers Samsung, LG and HTC. 

 The newest iPhone failed to impress many of its Korean fans. “It was not bad compared with the iPhone one year ago, but audiences were disappointed because they were used to seeing Apple innovating,” said Jeong Ji-hoon, director of the IT Convergence Center at South Korea’s Kwandong University.

Many analysts believe that the Asian handset makers offer better variety and prices for the Asian market. “Samsung has improved its display, and it embraced the dual-core processor earlier than the iPhone. But the key is that it has more smartphone product variants to cater to multiple needs and price points compared to iPhone, which is a single-product approach to the market,” said Jayesh Easwaramony, a vice president at Frost & Sullivan. And the price point isn’t the only issue – HTC already offers phones with an eight-megapixel camera and 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor.

Despite Apple’s troubles in Asia, the smartphone market is surging there. For instance, Indonesia, which is 98 percent prepaid, is one of the world’s largest BlackBerry markets. Smartphone shipments in India are poised to rise an average of 68 percent a year, to 81.5 million units by 2015, according to IDC. Smartphone sales in the first seven months of 2011 in Vietnam are up 73 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

 According to Bloomberg, the high cost of its devices means that Apple sells fewer devices in India (the world’s second-largest mobile-phone market) than it does in Norway. Rumors have flown for years about a lower-cost iPhone being unveiled specifically for Asia, but so far, Apple has refused to compromise on either functionality or performance to reduce its prices. But with so much pressure from competitors, how much longer can Apple hold out?

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