Why the Apple iPhone will fail miserably in Africa (and maybe elsewhere too!)

Here’s my latest on MyDigitalLife Blog: A look at the iPhone in Africa.

Update: Reposting it here for archive purposes.

Apple are lining up for an end of June launch of the much touted and discussed Apple iPhone. I don’t believe it will be a success in Africa. Here’s why:

It was just yesterday that they announced final details of how third party applications will be integrated into the iPhone without “compromising security”. Their solution: use AJAX in a standard web browser operating on the phone, with a custom phone look-and-feel instead of the “browser feel”. What a cop-out. What they’re really saying is

‘You’re gonna have to be online to use custom applications on the iPhone’.

There’s just one small problem. Online all the time is not possible in Africa!!.

For starters the coverage generally sucks. I have just returned from Mozambique where I couldn’t even roam on my own home provider’s network (MTN), despite all the necessary roaming activations being in place. Strangely enough I could roam on an opposition network!

With cellular data the price is also prohibitive. In order to get the cheapest data rates you need to spend over R1000 ($125) a month and you pay R0.20 ($0.02) per megabyte. (P.S. Steve Jobs – some people only earn R1000 a month) That’s the absolute cheapest for the highest end users. It may not seem like much but the cost will add up very quickly when you’re checking contact details, updating your todo list or schedule, sending and receiving email, checking google maps, or using the “killer-app” Youtube integration. So cellular is not really a viable option for connectivity.

What’s more, the iPhone does not have 3G. So you have to access your custom phone apps off the internet using a slow-ass GPRS/EDGE solution. Apple of course will claim that you can use the WiFi capability instead of EDGE, but the general lack of public WiFi access points means you’ll end up checking your mail or updating your schedule once a week while travelling – if you’re lucky.

In another strange move, the iPhone only has a 2 Megapixel camera. What good is that? When we send pictures of our starving children to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we need really high resolution pictures. Oh, perhaps it’s to save on that scarce African bandwidth.

How should Apple fix this? Simple. It should be an open platform that is customisable with third party apps able to run and store data on the phone. 3G is a must – this is 2007 for heaven’s sake! A 5 megapixel camera is possible. Keep the cool browser and the WiFi and add a GPS – Africa’s an easy place to get lost. Oh wait, I’ve almost completely described the Nokia N95!

All in all the iPhone is a pretty rubbish, expensive deal for anyone in Africa with its price tag of around R8000. It’s below industry spec, short on features and really not what one would expect from Apple.

It’s only coming to South Africa at the end of November so we won’t hold our breath waiting, that’s for sure.

Technorati Tags: mydigitallife, blog, iphone, africa, apple, stevejobs, failure

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