Apple is expected to introduce its iconic iPhone in India in September this year with Vodafone as its exclusive all-India service provider.
While the iPhone has been available in the country in the grey market, the official launch of the product in India will be good news for many aficionados who prefer buying it legally since the they will face neither the problem of unlocking all the applications in the handset, nor will they suffer lack of after-sales support.
As a matter of strategy Apple has tied up with single operators on an exclusive basis for the entire country. As in the US where the iPhone is available exclusively on AT&T, Apple had cut exclusive deals in Europe so only one wireless carrier has the right to distribute the device in each country. It has three such contracts so far, with Britain's O2, France's Orange, and Germany's T-Mobile.
Therefore, the selection of Vodafone in India means the phone will be operable only on the Vodafone network. The UK-based carrier is also the preferred Apple partner for the iPhone's much-awaited launch in Australia this year.
Of course, phones purchased from the grey market, after they have been ''unlocked'', can be used on the networks of other GSM service providers; however, the hand set prevents access to its media player and web features unless these have also been activated by the authorised carrier - though innovative hacker have found a way around this.
The first model to be launched is reported to be the 8 GB version of the touch-screen device, which combines Wi-Fi capabilities with an email client, TV feeds, online music store and map-based location guide. It is expected to retail around Rs28,000.
The higher-end 16 GB version will be launched in 2009, depending on the initial response.
Since its launch on 29th June 2007, the iPhone has replicated the iPod's success, and has already sold more than four million units worldwide. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has targeted 10 million iPhone sales by the end of this year, and India is expected to contribute substantially to that figure.
The iPhone though has not been able to crack the Chinese market as its talks with all the mobile operators has not materialised till now. Apple has been following a revenue-sharing model where it commands a bigger share with operators for iPhone release.
While this model has worked in developed markets, it is difficult to implement in markets like India and China that are price sensitive. The response in Europe also hasn't been as enthusiastic as expected because of the comparatively high price and competition from other manufacturers.
See: Nokia unveils plans for competitor to iPhone, the Tube 5800