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The iPhone Is Broken In India – Ankur P Agarwal, Pricebaba

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annkur agarwal

Ever since the first iPhone was released in 2007, it has been popular in India. I don’t mean popular in terms of sales numbers, but in terms of the buzz it creates, amount of discussions around it, and people asking if they can get one for $199. A good discount on the iPhone 5s still fills up my twitter stream ,and several of my friends picked up one recently. 

While I have managed to stick to a Moto X (1st Gen) for now, I often keep contemplating a move to the world of iOS again. No this isn’t a post about Android vs iOS vs Windows Phone. My platform of choice is iOS and I have invested in training myself to use it over half a decade now, not to forget the apps I have bought. While I still build up the budget to buy myself an iPhone again (and get ready to carry two phones), I managed to get one for my mom: an iPhone 5c.


That’s where I remembered a conversation with Javed Anwar at a Cafe Coffee Day in Connaught Place several years ago. Javed spoke to me about his experience with the iPhone that shipped with a Micro SIM slot, and the need for iTunes to activate it. He mentioned that it was unfair to expect a common user in India to get his SIM trimmed, or source a Micro SIM, or use iTunes to even setup the device, not to mention the pain of transferring media (video formats) to the iPhone. It is just too difficult for a common user, and that’s what he points in his reviews.


In the post PC era, as Apple suggests, some of this has become easy. Micro SIMs may be more easily available and you need not connect to a PC to activate your iPhone. But the initial interface still makes it appear as if you need a credit card to download WhatsApp on that new iPhone 5c. A simple Google search will give you hacks for creating an iTunes account without a credit card. There are ways to set up an account without a credit card, but the process is convoluted. On my iPhone 5c, as is evident in the screenshot above, it gave me no option to set up an App Store account without a credit card. Now, when I tried downloading a free App and then went through the same flow, it gave ‘None’ as a payment option. Agree, the workaround exists, but the initial interface is such that you would have lost my mom as a user.

There are things about iOS that I appreciate, and I may have access to enough information to not face the pain that many end-users face. But I can’t help but ignore the fact that Maps is broken: Navigation doesn’t work at all in India.. You may ask me to download Google Maps, but when someone shares his / her location with me on WhatsApp, I have to walk towards a blue dot on a blank canvas somewhere in Bangalore.

Some of this may get resolved with iOS 8, and some with future releases, but let’s be clear: mobile is about services, not hardware. I care about Siri recognizing my accent, I care about Maps and I care about setting up my mom’s phone quickly so that she can WhatsApp me.

It may not be feasible to bring something like Apple Pay to India, and I can live without it. But the next time someone who cannot set up their own iPhone easily wants one, I am going to ask them to buy something that just works.


Editors Note: Updated the paragraph that begins with “In the post PC era…” for clarity, with more details. As the author had indicated in writing and via the screenshot, there are workarounds, but Apple does make it appear as if credit cards are mandatory. This can be disconcerting for customers.


Annkur P Agarwal is the co-founder of PriceBaba. He previously founded OnlyGizmos and has also been an online retailer since 2002. You can talk to him on twitter: @annkur

Crossposted with permission from OnlyGizmos, here.

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  • Manik

    You CAN set up and start using an iPhone without having to use iTunes (not talking about transferring content here). And you can start using the app store with no card details entered, as there’s an option to skip and do it later if you need to.

    • Annkur P Agarwal

      Sure there are ways to setup without cc, but the process is convoluted. It isn’t as straightforward. On my iPhone 5c In this case it gave me no option without a CC when I tried to setup an App Store account, but if I tried downloading a free App and then went through the same flow, it gives ‘None’ as a payment option. Agree, the workaround exists, but when a common user is so scared to use CC even for online payments, trying to force it on file is my complain. Again a complain on behalf of a common user, pro users like us may get through easily.

  • KSB

    Umm, the built in maps app is broken is not the same as “The iPhone Is Broken In India”.

    Also, go to AppStore, download a free app, when asked to create an account, you will be presented an option to say “No credit card”.

    • Annkur P Agarwal

      Maps and Siri specifically for India. Not commenting on any other services or iOS in specific.

      Yes saw that ‘No credit card’ thing. But then that’s what it is, a workaround. The user will need to know this process to be able to install apps. That my claim is difficult for the common user.

      • Yogesh Joshi

        Thats the catch my friend, priced so high the company never focussed on Droid 1 kind of userbase that would need to bypass Credit Card info else they would not be making so much money through paid apps.

  • IndiaNama

    1. The iPhone is not broken in India. I and many people I know have been using them for years. Certain features or functions don’t work–visual voicemail, querying Siri for directions, and the problems this author highlights, maybe, but that’s quite a different matter. The phone function works, the browser works, email works, apps work.

    2. Anyone who is shelling out the kind of money for the iPhone but doesn’t have a credit card has to be in a tiny, tiny minority, and is likely buying an iPhone for the wrong reasons.

    3. Anyone who has a credit card but doesn’t want to share the card information with Apple has a credit card for the wrong reasons.

    Okay, 2 and 3 are judgmental, but come on, really, is this an issue? It’s the Indian equivalent of a first-world-problem.

    It is disappointing to read this on Medianama.

    • Annkur P Agarwal

      Thanks IndiaNama. I understand that it works for me and you. But at a time when Google is launching Android One, shouldn’t we question who the real India is, we or the masses?

      • IndiaNama

        Sure, we could question who the real India is, but what does that have to do with the Android One or the iPhone? The iPhone is a high-end, niche product. It’s a Bentley, not a Maruti Swift, and certainly not a Nano.

        Your point, as I understand it, is a plaint that the iPhone is not a mass-market device. Maybe not. But in case I got it right, I’ll just leave this here: http://techpinions.com/samsung-schadenfreude-and-the-fall-of-the-church-of-market-share/35451

  • sketharaman

    I’m surprised that we’re even talking about something called workaround in the context of a product that has made its name for being intuitive.

    I got my first credit card in 1988 (yes, I’m that old!). I think I placed my first online order in 1998 or so. It was the days of fabmall.com, rediff.com, et al and COD wasn’t even a gleam on the Bansals’ eyes. Despite that, even today, I hesitate to leave my credit card details on file with anyone, especially Apple, ever since I learned so much from its execs during the recent iPhone 6 launch event about how card info has been getting breached left-right-and-center and how Apple won’t keep any cards enrolled for its new mobile payment app Apple Pay on file.