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.

iphone-in-india

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.

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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.

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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.