7 reasons TO NOT buy or TO buy the iPhone 4S in India

So the big iPhone launch event is now over and the dust is settling down. I must say that Engadget has done a fine job of updating on the event progress while it was on. It takes a lot of effort for a tech website to be spot on with respect to the updates. Given its experience in handling past Apple launch event this was a cakewalk for Engadget this time as well. Finally Engadget also summarized the whole event in a short bulleted fashion for people who don’t have the time to read the full scoop.

(image courtesy : Engadget.com)

Given this introduction let us then discuss the top 7 reasons why you should NOT buy the iPhone 4S. These reasons come out of my experience with using the iPhone 3GS for a year or more. So lets head straight on then …

  1. Closed filesystem – While for a person who does not bother to look beyond his iPhone, he can live entirely only with the phone without having the need to transfer anything out of the iPhone. Unfortunately not everyone is like that so one would like to have the ability to transfer important documents, photos, and other files out of the iPhone. This need may arise since we would use the phone with the associated data service to download a lot of useful things from the net. Imagine not having the feasibility to transfer it out of the phone. You might ask me if this is totally impossible – well not exactly – you can do so if you transfer it to another iDevice only.
  2. Absence of ports – I do agree and everyone here would also tend to agree that Apple makes a wonderful set of products. But omitting things like a USB port or a mini HDMI port only means that Apple would want its ecosystem to be protected to such an extent that one has to buy an iMac or iPad to transfer data out or an Apple TV product to transfer video content to a TV. I have a boxee box, which does all that and more by connecting up to a simple WiFi network and it needless to say has a HDMI port, USB slots, SD card slots and wireless NAS accessibility via uPNP protocol. All at < 200$ (Rs.10000). In today's world, I cannot fathom paying 650$ without any of these just for the sake of lifestyle.
  3. Camera – When Apple launched 3GS version of the iPhone they provided a meagre 3.2 megapixel camera without flash, even when other manufacturers were already on the 5MP bandwagon with dual led flashes. While daylight photos were not so bad, night shots were pathetic. I am not even still considering the time it takes to edit that photo outside of iPhone as the transfer process itself requires iTunes software on an iMac or a PC. Arguably while apple has done away with the need for a PC anymore, can you think of atleast one time where you would love editing your photos on the phone itself. Its a small screen and you will run out of patience pretty soon. You might be wondering that it still has a 1080P full HD recording ability and hence more superior than a few other phones. Well I do tend to agree, but it all boils down to the same question as earlier – how would you transfer the content out for proper processing before sharing. For novices the phone would do it all automatically by processing and uploading to a video sharing service such as youtube, but for professionals who would like to edit the video more in depth, would find it intimidating when the device does not allow certain things. Coming to apple’s claim that the camera takes pictures in 1.1 second with a 0.5 second timing after the first picture, there are many other phones which also take pictures in about two seconds or so and offer face recognition since a couple of years now and this is nothing ground breaking. If i can wait for 1 second, i can also wait for 3 seconds!
  4. Pricing and rollout countries – Pricing has always been a premium for the iPhone. It continues to be so for the iPhone 4S which will retail for $649 or a little over Rs.32.500 in India on a fully unlocked basis. If you notice carefully India is NOT one of the countries which will get the iPhone 4S on October 28th. This directly shows the step motherly attitude that Apple has towards India. It has not skimped in the same way for the iMac though so far from releasing it on time. There are a lot of factors for this attitude from Apple. In a country where 3G speeds are not as consistent as they should be and in a place where a few thousands of geeks consider that India is geeky just because they use all the tech that is available, it does not mean that there will be millions of sales of the iPhone. The real winners out of phone sales in India would be those who provide dual sim phones with music player and radio, with perhaps a memory card slot thrown in at a rock bottom price of less than 50$ (~ about Rs.2000). Given this situation, a company like Apple which is vying for market share has no business in India with its ultra high end smartphone. And they are in no mood to subsidize it either.
  5. Carrier based subsidies – Unlike in the USA, carrier based phone subsidies and exclusivity for phone launches along with subsidies is not prevalent in India. With mobile number portability in place already, there is hardly any hope for this kind of model to work in India. Without subsidies we are then only looking for a very small percentage of market penetration Apple can achieve with its smartphone.
  6. Other feature sets –

    1. Flash disk size is hardly a differentiating factor these days for phones. I would at the maximum cycle around 1000 songs in my entire phone owning history and if I have 10000 songs while its good, we are talking only of a very select subsection of smartphone owners who are bound to be such music addicts. So if I am not a music and movie addicts there is no way that I can put the iPhone’s 16GB space to have anything else practically given the limitations on what can be stored and what not.
    2. GSM/CDMA universality is again anything groundbreaking. The early advent of dual sim, triple sim, and quad sim phones with multiple combinations of GSM/CDMA are more than already enough to provide the flexibility and for Indian’s going abroad there is a rare necessity to use two SIM cards on the same phone even alternatively instead of in parallel.
    3. iOS5 with iCloud – While the iCloud (which I had written about here) is a brilliant effort by apple for descoping physical limitations of the device storage, the concept itself is nothing groundbreaking. Almost every other provider is now on the cloud. The difference might lie in the way the other providers (versus apple) that let you access the cloud. On windows, accessing apple cloud is the slowest so far compared to say even Hotmail. Amazon cloud is yet to be tested by me and how Google might fare is only a fair guess having used google for a lot of time now. The real problem with iCloud is the missing information or lack of knowledge of how to find the files stored in the cloud. While other providers just list what you have in the cloud, Apple has incorporated the cloud concept into every application. So if I want to open some content, the only way is to get into the application having the ability to open that content, and then find the stored cloud content which I have created. This approach is useless and in no way enables me to get what I need quickly. I do appreciate apple’s clutter free approach in keeping cloud content specific to the applications that can harness it, thereby classifying it properly, but what is the use if I cannot see what I have stored in entireity on the cloud (ala Kindle Fire) ? The notification bar in iOS 5 has no quick launch buttons for bluetooth, WiFi, etc even in iOS5 !!

  7. Font and screen sizes – due to the limited screen size, even tasks such as facebooking, or emailing on an iPhone is not possible for a long duration. After prolonged use of the iPhone 3GS i have already increased the font size in order to prevent permanent damage to my eyes. Kids playing games on a small screen are only inviting a disaster as far as their visual abilities are concerned. On the outset it does not look like a big issue to many, but as a user of iPhone over a year, I cannot underline the importance of doing certain things on a bigger screen device. Atleast 7 inches of screen size, and most preferably a 10″ screen. This is the most ideal for heavy multitasking even if its just gaming or browsing or reading. This is perhaps where the kindle screen is a better alternative with e-ink technology compared to a retina display which is dazzling rather than practical to the already strained eye.

So if the Apple iPhone launch was all about brickbats, are there no boquets then? Your guess is as good as mine. Apple is a company which stresses on innovation. And when the give a feature they will implement it in a way incomparable to other mobile manufacturers. The TOP 7 reasons why you MUST go for an iPhone would be:

  1. Siri voice recognition – Here is an app which recognizes what you need and contextually remembers and answers all your related questions. Going all the way upto taking the stress out of you to do mundane tasks such as sending messages, shuffling music, etc. But the big question here is whether it will understand Indian English accent? That is yet to be proven and only time will tell.
  2. iTunes match – it is not clear how well this service will function yet. This seems to be a nice feature, but not compelling enough for an iphone buyer in India even if he is a music addict.
  3. the A5 chip – Apple’s processors are always a judicious choice and if you have seen the way an iPad 2 behavious with respect to screen renderings for graphical applications or games, then its not hard to imagine how blazing fast the iPhone 4S would be in the same aspects.
  4. Airplay mirroring – agree that this is a seamless feature, but it also requires equipment on the other end to support this kind of handover of content like a TV taking over from iPhone or gaming on the TV from an iPhone. We are still talking about a good six months before someone makes this possible. For those devices that already have airplay enabled, they will profit from this feature immediately
  5. Battery life – For those who own current generation apple devices they will already know the state of their battery prowess. Start with 100% at morning coffee, and you are < 10% before an evening coffee, leave alone dinner. Apple seems to have understood this and have high claims on battery life. This simply means the new iPhone would very well extend into day two of battery being in good shape kicking out those silly Mophie and other juice products into the bin sooner than later.
  6. Lifestyle device category – I cannot stress on this aspect any further than I always have. Apple makes lifestyle products. One that suits all age groups. So if I can do something on my iPhone, my kid can find something else worth doing for his age, and my aged parents can marvel and photo album swipes for their age and understanding. This is where Apple really shines and one device can keep all ages happy.
  7. App store – Apple we know pioneered the concept of app store and today they have anywhere more than 1,50,000 apps. This pretty much means you have an app that will help you brush your teeth and an app that will potty train your kids and an app which will monitor vital health signs of a sick aged person at your house if necessary. Extending the app store to iMac, iPad and the iPhone apple has ensured that they are on top of the money minting pie for a long time to come. Anybody else who makes mobile devices now has to have a store even it means aping apple and even if it means they have only two apps – facebook and twitter. For me honestly about ten apps should suffice. But it is really the needs and wants of 5% of the worldwide mobile phone market who own this phone that really matters. And the apple app store is pretty much geared to cater to this growing need in style.

So here were my 7 top reasons you should and should not go for the iPhone, now the call is yours. Tell me if you will or wont go for the iPhone 4S by answering the poll below!