An iPhone nano? Yes, if the price is right.

The iTwiverse is abuzz with rumors about Apple launching an iPhone nano- a compact version of the iPhone at a cheaper price. Technically, it does sound achievable, because the Retina display can pack twice as many pixels as the original iPhone. That in itself does not make it easy to build a smaller touch device, as the contact areas for buttons, keys etc., are reduced as well. But if a squarer aspect ratio is chosen, the keyboard can remain the same size as the present iPhone, with few lines of text visible above it. Besides, you can trust Apple to come up with UI adjustments to pull off a nifty smaller touch device (voice navigation?). The iPod-nano is already a good example but with limited apps only. 

But skeptics argue that a smaller iPhone would perhaps be needless, offering no real value over the present iPhone- which is already small enough to carry. But so is the iPod Classic small enough to carry. But Apple has created an attractive range of colorful iPod variants- shuffles, nanos which allow users to step-in at an attractive price range from $50+. The Classic at $249 for 160Gb is still the best value for money, though.

So if Apple plans nano variants of an iPhone, pricing needs to be spot on. A contract free iPhone is about $599 in most countries. Now here is a reason,-a very big reason- why a smaller or cheaper phone will be critical in India and many other Asian countries.

From my personal experience creating travel guides and programs in South East Asia, I can say that the mobile phone has done wonders in keeping the travel industry connected to providers at all levels- cab drivers, souvenir shops to exclusive remote island resorts, irrespective of level of education, salaries, and language barriers. The typical salaries at grassroots start from Rs 7500 (about $150+) per month, to about twice or thrice that amount for fresh graduates.

The three entry level mobile categories in Asia: 

So here is how an average Asian buyer goes about buying a mobile phone: 

1. I *need* a phone, even if I use it more for incoming calls from potential customers or emergencies. An FM radio never hurts as an added feature. $50 Nokias are damn popular in this category of semi-educated masses, and the not-tech-savvy senior citizens.

2. If I can get a phone, with a decent camera, so that it takes pictures of family & kids (maybe in a village where neither many have a landline phone nor own a camera). Each time I talk too my old cab-mates in Thailand, and ask about their family, the first thing they do is pull out their cell phones and prove that they are keeping their kids happy. So a $100-150 mobile, is the next level, which a lot of folks have to plan and save up for. 

3. The third level- you perhaps guessed it- is a phone for the new generation of Facebook teens, Twitter centric graduates. It must be understood that the average student in Asia, may not own a laptop or a desktop, and if they do, it will usually be a shared machine at home. So FB and Twitter on a phone become a pre-requisite in this trendy but ever expanding category, looking for their own personal space. Perhaps upto $200 is what they can justify, with help from their parents. 

Above $200, becomes expensive to justify as a need. Other worries begin to creep in- that it can get wet in the rains (4-6 months in India, Indo-China) etc., and what if you forget it somewhere. Of course, if you have an IT job or are a graduate working for few years, you start looking north, but the range of smartphones from $300-400, the Blackberries, etc., are usually still the first choices. $600 can be a month’s salary. 

How Apple can address these three categories, with one model or more, is anybody’s guess. 

If they can build a cheaper phone at the same size as the present iPhone- minus many features that would be fine. But if a smaller form factor is needed to cut costs, that is the next best option, but will work as well. Even just the built-in apps to begin with, plus a social media client, would do fine. 

Go for it Apple, size does not matter, if the price is right, so long as you proivde space for 140 characters* 

Happy Valentine’s day to the nano generation! 

@saumilzx 

Mumbai

*Just follow that up in Asia with aggresive mobile-me offers 

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    • Akshay Bakshi
    • February 14th, 2011

    Nicely written! Quite succintly sums up the Asian market (or atleast the Indian market for sure). Pricing is the main factor here. Nearly everything else is secondary. If Apple can pull this off, then I will become a fan.

    • Saumil Bhukhanwala
    • June 23rd, 2011

    In the last line, I have mentioned >Just follow that up in Asia with aggresive mobile-me offersNow after iCloud this is taken care of. Cloud syncing will be free. iCloud can enable Apple to think of more touch devices, as they will all be in sync, without wiring up each device to a desktop/iTunes, (and yet ending up out of sync).I think Apple can even think along an iCamera in conjunction with PhotoStream. Whether Apple actually makes new touch products besides iPhone or iPad, remains to be seen. But iCloud does make it clear, why it did not make sense to spawn many different versions (like iPod versions), leaving users with a nightmare situation of keeping important time related data in sync (for iPods it did not matter much if they were in sync, because one can listen to different music on different iPods and refresh after every few weeks). @saumilzx23 June 2011Mumbai

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