iPhonAsia Comment: What is “customization” in the context of the wireless handset market? Mobile operators often make direct purchases from handset manufacturers (ZTE, Nokia, Apple?) and then brand (carrier’s logo) and customize the phones to make them more “appealing” (or so the carrier’s like to believe) to consumers or more directly support the carrier’s value added services platform. Customized phones are popular in the pre-pay market.
See post re China Mobile hiring Accenture to help with smartphone (iPhone) customization > HERE
“iPhone is not the only choice,” Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, declared to the media shortly after it was heard that an iPhone will be introduced into mainland China by China Mobile in November.
On September 26, a day before the Davos Forum opened in Tianjin,China Mobile, jointly with Samsung, announced the launch of the Samsung i908E on the Chinese market. This type of cell phone, into which China Mobile’s many services will be installed, was first issued globally in July as Apple iPhone’s most direct rival.
Xu Da, head of marketing for China Mobile, said customization would become a model for China Mobile’s cooperation with more cell phone makers in future.
Apple’s product aims for the 3G market, and over one million 3G version iPhones were sold within three days of its issue. Although the iPhone has not been officially released on the Chinese market, at least 0.4 million have entered the Chinese market illegally, a demonstration of Chinese consumers’ interest in the product.
Chinese operators have not yet decided to let Chinese users buy Apple iPhones through legal channels and enjoy all the fun.
Apart from a lack of a model for cooperation and profit allocation between China Mobile and Apple, another concern comes from 3G and Wi-Fi function.
China Mobile wants Apple to make an iPhone specifically for the Chinese market, cancelling the 3G and Wi-Fi functions in this product, because the TD-SCDMA network, built by China Mobile, is not compatible with the other two types of 3G networks, WCDMA and CDMA2000. China Mobile doesn’t want to introduce a type of iPhone which is compatible with WCDMA network, lest users decrypt this type of iPhone and transfer to China Unicom or China Telecom’s network. The 0.4 million iPhones already in China are decrypted units.
Some analysts believe iPhone is not China Mobile’s ideal business partner anyway. Not long ago, iPhone appeared on a China Unicom on-line poster for 3G network.
Other 3G phones may also become iPhone rivals in the Chinese market. China Mobile, as the only Chinese operator of the Android alliance, has contacted Google, and may introduce Google’s android cell phone G1 to the Chinese market by the end of the year.
Wang Jianzhou said in June this year that the biggest obstacle for its cooperation with Apple had been removed. But now it seems things have changed. China Mobile’s competition with China Unicom is ongoing, and Google, Samsung, and Apple will compete in China’s 3G market.
The only uncertainty is that China Mobile’s negotiation with Apple is continuing. Every one still has chance.