To Apple, Love India | Gadget 360
Now that it’s been established that Apple does indeed check its social media mentions and is even able to make major changes to its plans based on reviews, I feel like voicing my own opinions. I hope I can bring a few questions to the attention of anyone in the company who is willing to listen – questions that are just as frustrating for Indian customers as the planned withholding of music royalties was for Taylor Swift the last week.
Like Swift, I respect Apple and all it has done to drive innovation in hardware and software; push back the limits and open new paths. I’ve owned and used a number of Apple products over the years and I’m clearly not the only one. I don’t have the kind of clout she has in terms of threatening to withhold something that Apple needs, so it’s really a knock in the dark because I see room for improvement in India.
I’m not suggesting that Apple sell its products at lower margins here – it would be foolish to think that Apple of all companies would ever kill its reputation and brand equity by doing this. No company is forced to subsidize its products in certain markets, but Apple could learn from others and take steps to be more reasonable, or at least sell products that better meet our requirements.
For example, Apple needs to understand that India is one of many countries where phones are not sold under contract by mobile service providers, and we are not getting upgrades at little or no cost every year or two. iPhones designed to hit that attractive target price of $199 (about Rs 12,500) are sold here at full retail price: from Rs. 53,500. The $100 steps between models are also a result of US contract pricing, meaning we’re paying Rs. 9,000 more per storage tier. The reluctance to adapt to non-US pricing models hurts the company and potential buyers.
16GB of storage (with only around 12.4GB actually usable) is absurd for a high-end phone without a microSD card slot. Lack of storage means we can’t use the great cameras we paid so much for, we can’t run games on the fast processors we paid so much for, and we can’t not even enjoy the music and movies that we (well some of us) have paid so much for. We don’t have cheap and high speed cellular data in India. Coverage is spotty and the prices are crazy. There are no unlimited plans, so we can’t store all of our photos and music in any type of cloud. If a full-fledged Android smartphone can cost less than Rs. 6,000 and a 64GB microSD card can cost less than Rs. 2,000, there is no logic in the world that would allow Apple to charge Rs. 9,000 just to go from 16GB to 64GB of storage on a phone.
The iPhone 5c, Apple’s low-cost option, is limited to a pathetic 8GB of storage, making it impossible to have more than a few songs and the most basic apps. It officially costs Rs. 33,500 but drastic price cuts have seen it go for Rs. 19,990 which is frankly still massively overpriced. What a shocking waste of a device – the screen and processor are good enough for anyone today, and the build quality is phenomenal. But no one can actually do anything with this phone and Apple knows that very well.
MacBook RAM and SSD upgrade prices are equally ridiculous, and what’s worse is that many of today’s products can’t be upgraded somewhere. on the line. A shopper who saves just about enough to buy the iPhone or MacBook they covet might feel – just a year later – that the money was wasted. Apple products are meant to make shoppers feel joy, not remorse.
No one is saying that Apple can’t charge whatever it wants for its products. But clearly some things are overpriced just because they can be. Apple’s proprietary Lightning cables cost four times more than branded Micro-USB cables, for no good reason. There are third-party cases, adapters, and accessories except for Lightning. Years ago, iPods came with a case, dock, inline remote, headphones, AV cable, USB and FireWire cables, and other useful little touches. The packages were a pleasure to open. Today, the new MacBook with its single USB Type-C port doesn’t even come with a single adapter, so the first thing you feel when you unbox it is that you’ve been wronged after spending nearly of Rs. 1,00,000.
Prices fell when Apple started allowing distributors in India to have more control. We have seen that it is possible for fear of competition to lead to disruption. Apple products were never available below MRP before, but now there’s a healthy movement and we’d like to see a lot more of that. There are still too many disparities – entry-level iPhone and MacBook models are discounted online, but still sell for full price in physical stores. This confuses customers and inflates the gaps between model levels. It also does nothing to address the shortcomings of the products themselves.
To borrow Swift’s sentiments again, “these are not the complaints of a spoiled, testy market watcher.” I don’t feel like I have the right to make Apple see things my way. I’m not saying Apple should abandon its core philosophies and I’m not criticizing it for being what it is. I even take into account our high taxes and the fall of the rupee against the dollar lately. iPhones and MacBooks are very ambitious products and many people save a lot of money to buy them.
I’m glad to see that Apple Music prices have been significantly reduced for India, just like music from iTunes Store. Music labels know how to do business here. Together they now have the most viable chance of turning India away from piracy. Why can’t this idea be taken further?
I think it’s time for Apple to do more for India than just launch gold iPhones. One of the biggest companies in the world shoots itself in the foot and one of the biggest markets in the world is left behind.