Apple's iPhone 3G gets ho-hum response in Poland and India

Mobile service provider Orange Poland this week hired actors to help "warm up" reception to Apple's latest phone. Meanwhile, in India, a new iPhone 3G costs the US equivalent of $712 -- another indicator of barriers in some emerging markets.

Although earlier launches of Apple's iPhone 3G created big stirs in the US, northern Europe, and Japan, in a later wave of rollouts this week, the reaction has been more ho-hum in countries like India and like Poland -- a place where actors actually got paid to stand in line.

Wireless operator Orange Poland has openly admitted to hiring actors to pose as avid iPhone customers, as a marketing ploy to help "warm up" the rollout in Poland, according to accounts in the foreign press and international wire services.

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The price of the iPhone 3G and the availability of both Internet access and 3G wireless networks all appear to be factors that could impact adoption of Apple's phone in emerging markets.

"Not just Apple, but its partners in India -- Bharti Airtel and Vodafone -- will have to play their roles to perfection for their customers to enjoy the iPhone," says a report in the Economic Times of India.

"India is amongst the few markets where the partner telcos are spending huge sums training thousands of their employees to activate the iPhone. This [is] because, unlike their western counterparts, Indian customers cannot be expected to activate the phone online," according to the Indian newspaper.

"Low Internet and PC penetration is a roadblock here; and even amongst those in metros and large cities who own PCs, only a small minority have Apple's iTunes on their systems. The other catch is slow Internet speeds which can frustrate users attempting to download iTunes."

Poland seems to be facing some of the same problems. As of December 2007, only 36.6% of Poland's residents had any Internet access at all, according to numbers compiled by Internetworldstats.com. That compares with 66.4% for the UK and 88% for Norway, for instance.

Meanwhile, although some Americans have been willing to pay something in the $1,000 neighborhood on eBay for an iPhone, many residents of poorer nations are likely to be hard-pressed to buy an iPhone 3G even from wireless operators.

In India, where the overall cost of living is much lower than in Western countries, but pricing from operators is much higher, initial popularity of Apple's phone is limited mainly to affluent professionals and children in families with inherited wealth, according to other reports.

"It's official. Vodafone will sell the 8 GB 3G iPhone for 31,000 rupees ($712) and the 16 GB model for 36,100 rupees ($828). And this for a 3G model when India does not even have 3G services yet," wrote a blogger for Reuters India.

"The price of the 8 GB model in the US is $199 and $299 for the 16 GB model. So is buying the iPhone in India worth it or will the grey market rule? Who will buy the new iPhone? All those who had pre-booked? The ones who want to get the latest gizmo on day one of its official launch in India or the geeks who cherish anything Apple?"

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