News, apple, Article, Charles Arthur, Computing, Financial, iphone, iphone 5, Main section, Mobile phones, News, Tablet computers, Technology, Telecoms, The Guardian — October 4, 2011 0:51 — 0 Comments
Apple iPhone 5 launch still veiled in secrecy
UK mobile networks kept in dark and may not even be able to give prices until Friday
Secrecy surrounding Apple’s announcement of its “iPhone 5″ on Tuesday evening UK time is so strong that UK mobile networks admit even they do not know precisely what will be unveiled, and so may not even be able to give prices until Friday.
Expectations are high, though, with carriers telling the Guardian that they think the phone will be the most highly anticipated to be launched this year. “In terms of interest, we had some for Samsung’s Galaxy S II, but that was nothing like we saw for the iPhone 4 last year,” said one source.
Unlike previous iPhone releases, some carriers do not propose to offer web pre-ordering ahead of their price details because they expect so many orders that it could overwhelm their systems.
The iPhone 4 is the best-selling smartphone in the world, and in the second quarter Apple became the world’s largest maker of smartphones and its biggest by revenue. But despite the mounting anticipation Apple has managed to keep details about the product secret, despite obsessive interest from the media and from accessory makers, which anticipate a bonanza in fresh sales if the phone is shaped differently from the existing iPhone 4, and so needs a different enclosure or cover.
The secrecy extends to carriers in the UK, which say they will only be able to begin negotiations over pricing with Apple after Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive since Steve Jobs stepped aside for medical reasons in August, has unveiled the new product line at Apple’s campus in Cupertino.
“Unlike other handset makers, where we know what products they have coming months ahead and we can negotiate subsidies, prices and numbers, Apple makes it all happen in a matter of days,” one UK carrier source told the Guardian. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that they would be pushed to the back of the queue in negotiations for the next iPhone release.
That lack of preparation means prices for the handsets might not be available until Friday at the earliest, as the carriers figure out how to price them to retain and even win customers while making a profit. “I doubt you’ll see much variation in prices between carriers,” said one source. “Probably only £5 per month one way or the other.”
Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at the research company Kantar ComTech, said “when the new iPhone is released there will be a significant bump in sales due to pent-up demand.” But he said that it would not be evenly distributed: O2, which was the first UK network to carry the iPhone in 2007, stands to benefit most from the release because it still has 45% of all UK iPhone owners, and 38% of O2′s UK customers have owned their device for at least 18 months – which would make them eligible for an upgrade.
Sunnebo said “iPhone consumers are very loyal when upgrading – in Britain, over 70% of iPhone owners who changed their device chose another iPhone”.
Separate data released last week by Nielsen from a survey of 1,000 UK smartphone users found Google’s Android OS comprised 44% of purchases in the past six months, ahead of RIM’s BlackBerry (25%) and iPhones (18%).
But Apple appears to inspire the most loyalty, with 86% of iPhone users saying they were “highly satisfied” compared to 74% of all smartphone users.
“Consumers still seem to love the Apple iPhone over any other device brand,” said David Gosen, Nielsen’s European telecoms managing director, noting that 90% of iPhone owners rate Apple as their favourite brand, the highest loyalty. Nokia had the next highest, at 75%, followed by HTC at 68%. BlackBerry at 65% and Samsung at 57%.
The iPhone upgrade will also bring the iOS 5 software update trailed by Jobs in June, will make Apple’s device more competitive in features with Google’s Android by adding a “notification” system and cloud connectivity to let users store and download photos, apps and music directly from Apple’s servers without using a PC.
The cloud connection could allow Apple to offer phones with less storage, because data would be stored online. That in turn could let it offer much cheaper phones to penetrate into new markets, especially China, where smartphone use is growing rapidly.
Data seen by the Guardian suggests the Three network, which only began selling the iPhone last summer, has gained significant market share from other carriers through its “unlimited data” offering. Vodafone, which has imposed data limits and more recently said it would round up contract users’ bills, now has the smallest monthly share of the iPhone market, behind Three, Orange/T-Mobile and O2.
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