Will Apple’s ‘Think Small’ move click in India?

David has come to battle the Goliaths

March 23, 2016, India

In India, low prices and high specs are what sell phones. People here tend to go by numbers, rather than performance. Like a slow phone with 2GB memory will outsell a faster phone with 1GB.

Naturally, Androids rule in India. But Apple has somehow managed a share of the mid to high end market with its iPhone 5 series. Its current market price of $250–350 (Rs 18000–25000), seems to appeal to those who like Apple’s combination of design and software.

The 4" iPhone SE will arrive in India on April 8, and will sell for around $580 (Rs 39000) as compared to $399 in US. The catch is that 4" size. But Apple seems to believe there are people who prefer the small size, and won’t mind shelling out the extra bucks for a dose of Apple goodness.

My observation is expectations of a phone seem to be changing rapidly. A year or two ago, most people found big phablets unwieldy and preferred smaller screens. These same people have today opted for big screens, and almost wiped out the high priced, small screen market in India.

The unwieldiness of the big phones didn’t change. But people changed. Bulkier phones began to be seen as an acceptable tradeoff for a full HD large screen where you can see a lot more details in videos and images.

But I think what’s really driving the change to large screens is that typing is easier on it. This makes the phone a viable replacement to the PC as a work machine. I suspect this is the critical difference from a small screen.

So Apple seems to be going against the flow with this gamble. Will it work? I think at the current price, it won’t. Those willing to pay that much may prefer the iPhone 6S. It’s almost the same price but has a larger, higher contrast 4.7" screen, as well as better tech like 3D Touch. The better battery life and compact looks of the SE may not be enough to win over buyers.

But once prices fall (and they inevitably will go below the $400/Rs28000 level), it may be a different story. I think the iPhone SE may then sell in large volumes, unless people go completely off small screens by then.

So who will buy the iPhone SE? I think it will mostly be those who don’t work on PCs. They need a compact phone that’s easy to carry while travelling or going on a run. One where they can view messages, type short replies, take good photos, and yes, enjoy Apple’s ‘price based status’ factor.

What about me? I type a lot so I’m biased in favour of big screens. My 5.5" 6S+ is quite light, so carrying it was just a matter of getting used to the size. Design-wise, I prefer the classic, flat look of the SE to the 6 series.

But nope, I won’t be going back to small screens. Ever.

it’s an odd world

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