The iPhone has single-handedly generated tremendous consumer interest in smartphones, with a number of customers seeking out more cost-effective options that work in many other ways than as just a phone. By Dhruv Tanwar
Mumbai: Though the Rs31,000+ price tag of Apple's iPhone, launched with much fanfare by Vodafone and Airtel last week, may have been a damper for gizmo enthusiasts, it has created more than a few ripples in the highly competitive mobile phone market in India. (See: Vodafone prices iPhone from Rs31,000 onwards; Airtel yet to decide)
Owing to the pre-debut publicity, the iPhone has single-handedly generated tremendous consumer interest in smartphones, with a number of customers seeking out more cost-effective options that work in many other ways than as just a phone.
India market giants Nokia, Samsung, LG, Blackberry, HTC and Motorola are seeking to counter, as well as capitalise on the ''iPhone effect'' - launching smartphones including touchscreen models, and highlighting features the iPhone lacks.
LG and Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry are trying to fill in the substantial demand-supply gap that Steve Job's handset has created in India. Handset makers are now pitching their smart wares as ''legitimate'' alternatives to the network-locked iPhone, and are going all out to leverage their wider distribution net to target customers across all telecom operators.
Market leader Nokia launched N96 just days before the launch of iPhone, with full web browsing capabilities over Wi-Fi or high-speed data networks, and is compatible with corporate e-mail. The handset comes with a 2.8-inch screen and has a 5-megapixel camera. While Nokia is accepting bookings for the N96, the product is yet to reach the hands of indian customers.
Here is a look at what the competition is offering as an alternative to the iPhone.
HTC Touch Diamond
HTC was amongst the pioneers of touch screen phones in India. It's Touch Diamond is the company's fourth offering in the country for GSM customers, following the HTC Touch, HTC Dual, and HTC Cruise.
The HTC Touch Diamond boasts a new 3-D touch interface called TouchFLO 3D, which provides animated access to messaging, email, photos, music, weather and other features.
The phone's dimensions are a convenient 102 x 51 x 11.33 millimetres, and it operates on WCDMA/HSPA (900/2100MHz) networks. The Touch Diamond is capable of boosting mobile Internet speed up to 7.3 Mbps using HSDPA and HSUPA.
Other key features include a 2.8 inch VGA touch screen display, a 3.2 mega pixel camera with an optical auto-focus lens, video-calling capabilities and auto sensor screen pivoting. The Touch Diamond runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, and comes with 4GB of internal storage memory, 256MB flash and 192MB RAM.
The Touch Diamond's 2.8-inch touch screen has around four times the pixels of most phones, and the vibrant TouchFLO 3D user interface responds perfectly to finger gestures when scrolling through contacts, browsing the web, and launching media. All functions are displayed as photos and artwork powered by the 3D graphics processor.
The phone hooks up to HTC Weather to provide a constant view of weather at home and abroad. It also has an integrated GPS for use with maps software for a full turn-by-turn satellite navigation experience.
The elegant ASUS P320 Mini GPS PDA phone is designed for the fashion-conscious. Its ultra compact form give it an almost weightless feel, and the fashionable outlook is slim and slender. Moulded round curves make the phone easy on the eye, and its range of features make it powerful and intelligent.
Despite its compact size, this handy mini-PDA phone has an arsenal of powerful features. It work on the Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional platform, and has features such as GPS navigation; EDGE/GPRS and WiFi for Internet access; Bluetooth, and USB for connectivity, and much more.
The P320's built-in GPS module allows timely, faster satellite pinpoint and download for users even in open country locations where the global GPS network will be able to locate the user, and the navigation software guides them to their destination.
Applications on the P320 are made with user convenience in mind. The ASUS Today suite contains icons such as time, calendar, messages, weather and media player, all visible on the same window. The ASUS RSS Reader automates the task of receiving up-to-date information and provides the latest news and blog updates. Ur Time, an application which also allows users to set up to four different countries´ default timing on the phone desktop, allows globe-trotters quick country-specific time references, convenient for setting meetings worldwide.
A thoughtful feature that frees up memory is the Auto Cleaner function, which does not allow applications to be hidden when they should actually be closed. The Auto Cleaner ensures the intended applications are really closed.
Other features include a 2.6-inch TFT touchscreen with 65K color, 240 x 320 pixels resolution, OMAP 850 (Texas Instrument's Open Multimedia Application Platform) 200 MHz processor, 128MB Flash ROM + 64 MB DDR RAM and business applications.
The phone has a 2 mega pixel auto-focus camera and has microSD support.
LG 1000 in India is targeted at the premium segment of CDMA users. The phone features a full touchscreen as well as a QWERTY keypad, office mail for corporate mail access, HTML enabled browser and high speed internet connectivity.
The phone also has a 2.0 mega pixel camera with video recorder, and can play MPEG 4 videos and with music and sound coming from its dual stereo speakers. It supports expandable memory up to 8GB.
LG says the phone has an extended battery life of up to 240 minutes (talk-time) and up to 480 hours stand-by time. The phone is already available on Reliance Communications' CDMA network, and is a look-alike of Nokia's Communicator.
Another great option for CDMA users, the HTC P3000 is already available on Reliance's CDMA network. Sleek and stylish, the phone weighs a feathery 130 gram in its slim 18-mm body. Powered by Reliance's CDMA 1X technology, the HTC P3000 brings home high-speed mobile internet access up to 144 kbps, and works on the Windows Mobile 6.0 platform.
The HTC P3000 includes a complete suite of business applications including Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile, Outlook Mobile, PDF viewer and more. It has a built in 2 mega pixel camera that features a preview mirror to ensure quality imagery. The phone has 64MB RAM built-in, and also features a SDIO/MMC card slot for extendable storage.
It has a radiant 2.8-inch TFT touchscreen and supports Bluetooth.
Samsung Omnia i900
The Korean salvo into the iPhone's market share comes in the form of the Omnia i900.
The SGH-i900 looks like a splitting image of the iPhone, and came to market just days ahead of the 3G iPhone's ebut in India last week.
The touchscreen SGH-i900 has a built-in 5 mega pixel camera, 7.2Mbps HSDPA connectivity, built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. At 112mm x 57mm x 12.5mm, the handy phone has a 3.2-inch display that supports 240 x 400 pixel resolution (Wide QVGA).
The phone operates on the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform, and like the iPhone, comes in two configurations of 8GB and 16GB.
Sony Ericsson G700 and G900
Sony Ericsson says that both these phones are designed to ''give back time'', as they place a personal organiser and easy finger-touch control within familiar form factors. Touch and go.
The G700's personal organiser is an in-your-pocket tool to keep contacts, calendars, notes, pictures and favourite Web sites all in one place, and just a fingertip away. The G700 phone has one-touch full organiser functions, Touch controlled Notes application – to write and draw your memo's, a 2.4-inch display with unique single touch control menu, a 3.2-mega pixel camera.
The G700 uses the calendar as an organisational tool, saving notes on the phone that can be jotted down using the stylus on the screen itself, just like a pen and paper. Reminders can be added to these notes, similar to post-it notes stuck on the refrigerator at home.
The phone also boasts touchscreen text input, web surfing, calendar and phone navigation. Photo albums in the phone can be browsed using the tip of your finger.
The G900 has all the functions of the G700, plus the added feature of a unique new 5.0 mega pixel Touch auto focus camera, touch photo album and editor. The G900 has the one touch media experience, a 5.0 mega pixel camera with touch Auto focus and Multi-shot function, one- touch media and organiser menu, a 2.4 inch display with single touch control menu, and Wi-Fi for high speed data transfer and internet browsing.
Sony Ericsson W950i
The Sony Ericsson W950i is a stylish 3G touchscreen phone that uses the Symbian operating system. It has the same form factor as the Sony Ericsson M600i, though the M600i is better for business users who text a lot, given its dual-function QWERTY keyboard.
The W950i includes a music player, FM radio, earphones and large phone memory. On the downside, there's no hardware QWERTY keyboard, camera or memory card slot on the W950i. The keypad has a flat keyplay.
The good features include the ability to assign a mood to a track, shuffle songs, create playlists, equaliser, forward or rewind within a track, and sorting tracks by title, file size, play count, rating, view tracks by mood, artists, albums, playlists and recordings.
Sony Ericsson K608i 3G
Sony Ericsson's K608i too came to market around the time of the iPhone. It has a fully featured 1.3 MP camera, and FM radio which is a feature that the iPhone lacks. The K608i comes allows owner-customisations with personal creativity tools that allow personalised ringtones, wallpapers, still shots and video footage.
Nokia has said that it will soon bring out a full function touchscreen handset by the end 2008. Codenamed 'Tube', the phone has been featured in the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight, and will be the second full touchscreen device from the Finnish manufacturer.
Canadian company RIM is also said to be working on a touchscreen offering, ostensibly called the RIM BlackBerry 9500 "Thunder". The phone is said to be ready to debut as an exclusive on Verizon Wireless and Vodafone providers.
Clearly, Apple's iPhone has stirred up an erstwhile lazy category of smart phones, and given its rather uncompetitive pricing, Apple's loss could be Nokia / Samsung / LG / Sony Ericsson, et al's gain. In true capitalistic spirit, the one really happy with all this competition, is the customer.