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09:06 AM
Marco Veremis
Marco Veremis
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Why Apple Must Reconsider Emerging Market Strategy

Apple's iTunes App Store model doesn't work well in some parts of the world. Users need more flexible payment models for mobile content.

More than 900,000 apps are available for download in the Apple App Store today, and within that app ecosystem entertainment has long dominated. Candy Crush Saga, Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, Words with Friends -- such apps have had us all glued to our phones. But when it comes to apps and mobile content, a one-size-fits-all model isn't going to cut it in emerging markets.

As has been widely reported, explosive growth has put emerging markets in the mobile spotlight. According to a recent report published by Gartner, despite the rapid increase in global smartphone ownership, the demand for premium devices is declining. Instead, users in emerging markets are opting for mid-tier devices priced at $200 or less. Device manufacturers such as Nokia and Samsung are making significant inroads in these regions, launching attractive affordable entry- to mid-level devices to appeal to the next billion consumers.

If Apple wants gain share in these emerging markets and sustain its growth trajectory, it needs to reevaluate its current strategy. Holding onto its premium brand status has so far served the company well in the West, but now all eyes are on emerging markets, where smartphone use is set to explode. The question is: Can Apple replicate its success in these new markets using its current strategy?

[Amazon has its own hurdles to clear in the Chinese market. Read Why Amazon Faces Challenges In China.]

While many had hoped the iPhone 5C would be Apple's shot at making its products more accessible to the masses, so far the company has been reluctant to mark down the device's hefty price tag. Failing to adapt its pricing strategy could cost Apple in markets such as India, where Apple stands to lose the most ground. According to Ovum, the number of mobile connections in India is expected to increase by more than 236 million by 2017, with smartphone penetration set to rise from 14% to 66% during the same period. However, with an average annual income of approximately $1,200, users in India are likely to opt for brands that have made cost and accessibility a primary consideration.

Apple faces an uphill battle in trying to adapt its app model. The Apple App store currently works on a Trojan horse system, where content is locked within expensive devices and relies on consumer debit and credit card details to process transactions. Lack of access to banking facilities in these regions means content in the App Store is beyond the reach of a large population of consumers.

To combat this problem, we've seen an increase in partnerships between app developers and mobile operators because operators can provide the most appealing billing solution: paying for mobile content via their contract or pay-as-you-go plan. If Apple wants to make its mark in the developing world, it should work closely with mobile network operators, which can unlock mobile content by allowing users to pay for data and apps via their pre- or post-paid mobile contracts.

After Apple's recent strong earnings report, it will be interesting to see the company's next move -- especially as iPhone 5C sales will likely play a bigger role in the next quarter. Will Apple leverage its partnerships as mobile operators become key players in connecting handset manufacturers, content producers, and app developers in emerging markets? That remains to be seen.

Marco is founder and CEO of Upstream, where he sets the company's strategic direction and spearheads expansion. He has also been chairman of the board since 2002. A mentor for Endeavor and Openfund, Marco also serves as VP of the board of HAMAC and as an angel investor and board advisor in Workable HR.

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Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2014 | 2:09:48 AM
There is no doubt that Apple has its own ecosystem and AppStore is one of the key cornerstones. But its pricing model is a little bit too rigid to gain wider popularity. Furthermore, the iTunes software is rather slow and difficult to use. In a developing country with poor infrastructure, talking about iPhone and AppStore may be of luxury. So we can forget about such kind of case for the moment. But I do agree that the AppStore's pricing and earning model should be revised so that it's more flexible. It's necessary for the further penetration of Apple ecosystem in not only emerging markets, but also mature markets.
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 7:36:19 PM
The US market needs just as much of a price break
Actually, Apple should pay closer attn to where its bread is buttered - here in the US, we pay the highest rates for the slowest broadband, and, with each successive generation of its flagstaff phone, the cost becomes that much more prohibitively priced, especially given the current economic downturn where the financial industry and the Fortune 500 enjoy record profits. Meanwhile on Main Street, USA, mass foreclosure, and rampant under/unemployment persist.
User Rank: Strategist
12/30/2013 | 9:58:19 AM
Emerging markets
Emerging markets are shirtless peasants who plow rice paddies with oxen and carry water in buckets. Ignore these peasants of color.
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