Will India Leapfrog the Apple iPhone 3G[S]?

I am writing (most of) this post on my iPhone 3G[S] using Airtel in New Delhi. The 3G[S] is not available in India yet and there is no information publicly available about a pending release or pricing.

I suspect, that Apple is terribly disappointed with iPhone 3G sales through its Indian partners, Airtel and Vodafone. On the flipside, Apple provides no support for the iPhones they sell in India. The only support available is through the carriers, who, from experience and from what others have said, can’t even properly activate an iPhone. Apple really can’t blame them.

In India, why has Apple abandoned their philosophy of controlling every aspect of their customers’ experience with their products? The 3G sells through official channels for anywhere between Rs. 30k and Rs. 35k. It’s not cheap by any standard. Blackberry, on the other hand is selling all their models in India like hotcakes. A few people I have met who bought iPhones through official channels in India have exhibited an incredible amount of frustration at the device and the (lack of) support behind it. One person said it took Vodafone almost a month to get data working on his iPhone and they had no answer for his dropped calls. Not exactly another notch in Apple’s customer service utility belt.

Those in India who bought the phone through unofficial or grey market channels have paid a premium for the device. They face extreme frustration when dealing with the carriers and they knew they would get no support from Apple (unless they were lied to by the vendor and told that they would get support from Apple – yes, vendors in India do lie). For the moment, Apple has lost the Indian high-end mobile phone market to Blackberry and Nokia. Until the carriers offer better service, true unlimited data plans, and better speeds, only gadget freaks like me and those trying to be seen with the sexiest phone on the market will be paying the massive premiums for an iPhone in India. Currently, an unlocked (not sure if it’s factory or hacktivated) iPhone 3G[S] sells for anything between Rs. 45,000 (USD 980) and Rs. 55,000 (USD 1,200) in places like Khan Market in New Delhi.

My bet is that India will see an iPhone 3G[S] sometime in the late Spring at which point, Apple will be getting ready to roll out the next version of the iPhone just a few months later in the US and other countries. Come on Apple, haven’t you figured out that Indians will gladly pay a premium for great hardware. It’s the software they will never pay for.

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Apple iPhone in India By Vodafone

According to Ars Technica, Vodafone will be launching the iPhone in India beating out Airtel. It’s not a surprise considering Vodafone already has deals with Apple in Europe. What remains to be seen is when will the iPhone be released, how much the iPhone will cost and whether it will be the rumored 3G iPhone.

There was a huge backlash against Mercedes Benz in the late 90’s for introducing old model E class cars in India as compared to the rest of the world. It took Mercedes some time but they realized that Indians want the latest of whatever the rest of the world is getting. That was a dozen years ago. With the amount of wealth recently created in India, a 3G Apple iPhone introduction in India will go a long way to placate people’s egos, knowing they have the latest and greatest.

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Upgrading Unlocked Apple iPhone from 1.1.1 to 1.1.3

Just last week, George Hotz or “geohot” as he is known did some amazing work on unlocking the iPhone for OTB 1.1.2 and 1.1.3 iPhones as well as unlocking upgraded iPhones. Since I’m using my iPhone on Vodafone in India, I didn’t want to upgrade from 1.1.1 to 1.1.2 as the unlock for 1.1.2 wasn’t an “official” dev release. But now, as the developer community has managed to unlock the iPhone under 1.1.3, it seemed like the right time to upgrade – though with a little bit of pain.

There are plenty of sites that explain how to upgrade a 1.0.2 or 1.1.1 iPhone to 1.1.3 and unlock it. I won’t go into writing a full post on how to do it. What I will do, however, is explain some of the “gotchas” during the upgrade process. Your mileage may vary depending on the method you use to upgrade. I primarily used the instructions at How to jailbreak 1.1.2 or 1.1.3.

I started with an unlocked 1.1.1 iPhone that was upgraded from a 1.0.2 iPhone. I had revirginzed the 1.0.2 phone and upgraded to 1.1.1 and unlocked using anySIM 1.1.1.

The first thing I did was to sync my iPhone to my MacMini and then do a complete restore my 1.1.1 iPhone to 1.1.1, thus wiping out all the garbage that I had accumulated in the last few months. Now, once the phone was restored, the unlock was still active but I had to jailbreak the phone as described in the instructions above.

After jailbreaking the iPhone, I installed the OktoPrep package from Installer.app. I then started downloading the 1.1.2 jailbreaking archive. Now it is critical that you do an UPGRADE from iTunes to 1.1.2 as described on Unlock.no. If you do a restore by mistake, you will have to restore back to 1.1.1, jailbreak it, install OktoPrep again, then, finally, UPGRADE to 1.1.2. Following the directions, made it very easy to jailbreak and use my 1.1.2 iPhone. I unlocked it using anySim 1.1.2u and the installed iWorld from the “Tweaks 1.1.2” section of Installer.app.

Now, upgrading to 1.1.3 using the instructions at Unlock.no were great, BUT, I found that doing a Restore didn’t allow my iPhone to reboot no matter what I tried. Hence, make sure when you’re running the “Official 1.1.3 Upgrader” that you tap “Upgrade” and not “Restore”. If you follow those directions an repeatedly “Update” from 1.1.1 to 1.1.2 and then 1.1.2 to 1.1.3, you should be able to start your iPhone running 1.1.3 already unlocked.

Since upgrading to 1.1.3, an easier 1.1.3 unlock has also been made available but I have not tried it.

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Vodafone India MMS Settings for iPhone

It took some time to get the correct MMS settings for the iPhone but below is a screenshot of the exact settings to be used with Vodafone in Delhi when using SwirlyMMS for the iPhone. The same settings should work with Vodafone users in the rest of India and I would love to hear from those of you who have gotten it working. Unfortunately, SwirlyMMS doesn’t yet allow receiving MMS messages but the developers are working on adding that feature in soon.

SwirlyMMS Settings

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Apple iPhone on Vodafone India

I’m back in New Delhi and brought my iPhone along for the ride. I popped in a Hutch (Vodafone) SIM card into the iPhone. Everything appeared to be working fine, except EDGE/GPRS. I looked around and couldn’t find any sites with Vodafone India settings for the iPhone. I did, however, find this page on the Vodafone India site that gave all the information necessary to get EDGE/GPRS up and running.

To get EDGE running on Hutch/Vodafone India on your iPhone, go to Settings then tap on General then tap on Network and then on EDGE. On the EDGE screen enter “WWW” under APN. Done. Simple, huh?

Vodafone India EDGE Settings

The SIM Applications (Settings -> Phone) on my Hutch SIM card seem to partially work but I cannot check my bill from the iPhone. I believe reading that Apple doesn’t recognize any phone numbers or applications on SIM cards. However, I think SIM applications are partially recognized. If anyone has any other experiences, I’d love to hear about them.

Hutch/Vodafone India Services

Finally, don’t bother running any Carrier Services from Settings -> Phone as they appear to be hardcoded for AT&T.
iPhone Carrier Services

Anyone else running an iPhone in India on Hutch/Vodafone, Airtel, IDEA, or other networks, I’d love to hear your experiences.

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