iPhone Needs to Reach Small Carriers

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-10-04 Print this article Print

iOS 5 also offers access to iCloud, which can provide wireless backup and music storage and a newsstand feature that provides access to magazines and newspapers. While it's hard to tell from a remote briefing, it appears that additional functionality has been added to its geographical services, and that iTunes will be more flexible as well.

The iPhone 4S will be available in the United States Oct. 12 and worldwide by the end of October. But the next question is, how long after that will the iPhone be the dominant smartphone model around the world?

At the beginning of his talk, CEO Tim Cook pointed out that Apple only has 5 percent of the world handheld device market. Cook said this was because his numbers include all devices, not just smartphones. He also said that someday all of these devices will be smartphones and that Apple will hold a dominant role.

But to accomplish that, Apple has to do more than just introduce a new version of the iPhone, as nice as it might be. And the company has to do more than drastically lower the prices of subsidized phones in the United States, even though a free iPhone is really cheap. More than anything, Apple has to find a way to make the iPhone carrier agnostic. All of those smaller carriers, from T-Mobile to Cellular South to Cincinnati Bell, also need to have access to the iPhone.

Likewise, the iPhone price outside the United States needs to come down to prices that more people can afford. With iPhone prices in some places being more than $1,000 each, outside the United States, the iPhone is very much a luxury item. While the iPhone sells for reasonable prices in many places outside the United States, such as Western Europe, the vast majority of cell phone users aren't located in North America or Europe.

This means that for Tim Cook to realize his vision of growing past that 5 percent penetration level, Apple has to do something to make the phone more available. The two big things are to make the phones less expensive outside North America and Europe and to make the iPhone available to users of a much wider selection of carriers.

While Apple has been selling an unlocked version of the iPhone that will work on GSM networks for a while, it's not priced so that most people other than wealthy users or businesses can buy it. For Apple to move beyond 5 percent, it has to change that approach. 


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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