The iPhone 4 on Aircel and Airtel is just around the corner and we already have reported some juicy bits about the launch plans. I have been hearing things like “You’d be surprised” and “You will be shocked when you hear the price points.” At the moment, we know that the iPhone 4 will be sold factory unlocked. Obviously, the carriers cannot enforce a two-year commitment and subsidize the upfront cost of the device, which is not locked to it. So here’s what everyone has been asking me – what would the two carriers get by selling factory unlocked iPhone 4s? And that too at unrealistic low price points? What’s stopping anyone from buying an iPhone 4 from either Aircel or Airtel and then use it on another carrier? Hit the jump to find out what I think could be the most probable scenario, which can answer all these questions. Also Read - iPhone selling in LG stores? Apple is apparently in talks for a new deal
Since upfront subsidy is certainly not an option, how about a “reverse subsidy” model? In this model, rather than subsidizing the cost of the phone, a buyer is required to pay the full amount upfront. However, for making that commitment, the carrier pays back the subscriber every month. Think of it as an EMI. In case of a post-paid subscriber, it could be a flat discount on his monthly bill spread over two years. Depending on the usage, the subscriber could literally get the phone for free if he stays with the carrier (in this case, Aircel or Airtel) long enough. Or in case of pre-paid, it could be a package of free calling minutes, text messages and data. Also Read - Apple CEO Tim Cook claims iOS is more secure than Android
With this model, the subscriber would be locked in to the carrier by choice and not by force. Majority of them would be high value customers – the kinds that every carrier wants to hold on to, while rival carriers are trying to get them ported to their networks. At the same time, being unlocked devices, the carriers can somewhat ensure they won’t be left with a massive inventory at the end of the day. It also makes Apple look good, when in the past it has been criticized for selling locked devices at full prices. (For the record, carriers and not Apple, sell iPhones in India.)
So there you have it! My two cents on how carriers could, for the first time, successfully sell an iPhone in India. I just hope they are reading this right now.