It’s been interesting watching the reported sales figures for the Apple iPhone trickle out from the various networks across Europe. In each case, they’ve been healthy without really going as stratospheric as the device itself would seem to warrant. It seems to me that there are some serious price issues at work here that have hampered the iPhone’s progress.
I can think of three common scenarios:
A: tech-literate power user, toss up between iPhone and (say) a Nokia N95 8GB, needs a fair amount of data, prepared to invest money to gain a great device. Over the course of 18 months (the length of the iPhone contract), both devices end up costing roughly the same amount, i.e. around £1000. So it comes down to a simple ‘which do you prefer?’ argument. Both iPhone and N95 8Gb sell in similar numbers.
B: newbie, buying what they perceive as a nice multimedia-savvy phone on the High Street. They look at the iPhone, love it but baulk at the price/contract. They end up with a Nokia N73 or Sony Ericsson Walkman phone, for free with a £25/18 month contract, so no initial outlay and less than £400 by the end. And they can sell the phone on at the end for £100 or so, bringing the cost down even more.
C: anyone who can’t stand being tied to a phone contract (for political or financial reasons) and wants to go down the SIM-free/unlocked route. Here the iPhone (sadly) isn’t even an option. A handset (e.g. the Nokia N95 classic) is bought, unlocked, for £350, used on a pre-pay SIM card for a while, then sold on eBay for £270 and the proceeds used to buy something even shiner, also unlocked. Repeat 3 or 4 times over 18 months. Total outlay in terms of money, including network prepay charges, is possibly getting on for £1000, as in case A, but the user’s had a lot of fun switching smartphones and generally riding the cutting edge of technology without anyone telling him or her what to do and what not to do. [OK, it’s a fair cop, I sit in category C]
Unlike in the USA, the latter 2 cases above showcase example situations where the iPhone is certainly not the right/obvious choice. And it’s these sorts of musings and these sorts of users who shape the buying patterns in Europe.
Me? I’d love to see a SIM-free, unlocked iPhone. I’d buy one at (say) £500. But will Apple go down this route in the interests of boosting sales in Europe? Here’s hoping!