Did The iPhone Hype Die In Europe?
The iPhone finally hit the Old Continent, for starters in Germany and the British Isles. France is up next week and other countries are soon to follow. The question is, did European sales match the US enthusiasm?
November 12, 2007
Over the Channel, the iPhone launch was supposed to be a triumph. Mobile phone company O2 claims to have sold "tens of thousands" of iPhones over the weekend. Too bad they're the only ones claiming it, while media reports tend to focus more on an even t rather “pathetic” (says ZDNet), while The Register has no problem in pointing out that “Journalists and PR minders outnumbered buyers on Friday night”.
But maybe they're wrong and O2 is right. Well, if O2 was indeed right, the it wouldn't have had any problem in coming up with some early activation figures (as you are aware, you must first activate the iPhone in order to legitimately use it). They didn't and they will most certainly won't until they have some beefy/impressive figures.
So, basically, we can safely assume that the iPhone storm was more like a nice summer breeze. What happened to the US sales champion? To put the conclusions in a cryptic way, we can say it was too little, too late. Also, it was a little too much. But let's take them one at a time.
One of the first things criticized about the iPhone was the use of the EDGE instead of the newer and far more popular 3G. From this point of view, the iPhone is old news when compared to similar, more advanced products.
And speaking of old news, let's get to number two: it was too late. The iPhone hit the market in the US several months and one price cut ago. Those interested in getting one already did so or just decided to skip it and look for something else. Back in June Apple managed to build up an enormous amount of hype, it might've well used it for a global launch in key markets. I know it would've been much harder than with their current schedule (especially given the local drawbacks, like the current legislation in France), but my bet it would've paid up in the end. “It's here! It's fresh out of the box! You can have it now!”...hard to resist it if you're an early adopter, right? Well, now such an approach doesn't work anymore. Apple had their global moments, but now it's long gone and it won't come back until iPhone 2, though I doubt that a second edition would actually rise up to match the first one in terms of interest.
Last item on the list: it was (and still is) too much. First of all, the European prices are much more than what a US shopper has to pay nowadays. In Germany the Apple phone is sold for $587, UK has it at $566, while in the States it only costs $399. Europeans know that a price cut will come at some point in the future. They waited for so long to get the phone, why not keep on waiting for a few months more?
Furthermore, future iPhone owners must also agree to a two-year contract (which is everything but cheap) and, in return, they get a phone tied to a certain network. While this is more or less standard procedure in the US, Europeans are rather fond of the idea that they can switch networks any time they'd like and they are ready to pay more for an unlocked phone.
Unfortunately, the iPhone takes the worse part of both offers: you pay more for an unlocked phone. Definitely a “no-no”.
Most bets are that many prospective iPhone buyers are waiting to see what will happen in France, where an unlocked model has to shop alongside the locked one (as required by the French law). It doesn't take a NASA scientist to figure it out that some customers in Germany and UK would rather go for the unlocked French phone, which can, theoretically, be used in any networks of choice. But will they be content with paying even more for that specific model? And won't Apple take some measures to prevent that?
Back in the States, Apple decided that one person could buy only two iPhones and he or she would have to pay with a credit card instead of cash, the aim being to prevent unlockers from getting their hand son too many handsets. Will similar measures pop up in France too? I guess we'll see next week.
Until then, I'll say just that: in the US the iPhone managed to be the platoon leader. In Europe it's starting to become part of the pack. Its mesmerizing powers don't work that well anymore.