Tag Archive for 'iPhone'

The future of civil society (I hope)

In the Netherlands:

Potholes, stray garbage, broken street lamps? Citizens of Eindhoven can now report local issues by iPhone, using the BuitenBeter app that was launched today. After spotting something that needs to be fixed, residents can use the app to take a picture, select an appropriate category and send their complaint directly through to the city council. A combination of GPS and maps lets users pinpoint the exact location of the problem, providing city workers with all the information they need to identify and resolve the problem.

The application covers a wide range of familiar nuisances, from broken sidewalks to loitering youth (who will hopefully respond favourably to having their picture taken by concerned citizens). Compared with lodging a complaint by phone or in writing, BuitenBeter creates a nearly frictionless experience and will no doubt prompt a wider group of people to become active reporters of issues that need the city’s attention.

Besides giving people an easy way to send through detailed reports, city officials also believe the concept will create shorter lines of communication, and will facilitate quicker feedback from local government to citizens. Developed by mobile solutions provider Yucat, the BuitenBeter app will soon be available for Android and Windows Mobile phones, too. Eindhoven has signed on for a twelve-month trial, and Yucat hopes to roll out the system to other cities in the near future.

This is brilliant.  More!


Taken at 12:13pm, Monday the 18th of January, 2010, on Russell Square (where Woburn Place turns into Southampton Row).

Gray markets, PPP and the iPhone in China

Via Felix Salmon, I found this fantastic piece by “Bento” on the take-up of the iPhone in China.

Some background:  When Apple launched the iPhone in China, early sales numbers were disappointing.

Some background to the background:  Under Chinese law, WIFI-enabled phones are illegal, so Apple has to cripple the iPhones they sell in China.

From Bento:

The Chinese have long had access to iPhones. They are for sale at stalls in every cybermall and market in every Chinese city, and come in two varieties: The most expensive ones (at around 6000 RMB in Shanghai for a 16GB 3GS, or 880 USD, depending on your haggling skills) come directly from Hong Kong, where the factory-unlocked model is available from the Apple store for around 4800 RMB. That’s a nice arbitrage play by the stall owner, and everyone is happy. The cheaper model, at around 5000 RMB for a 16GB 3GS, was originally bought locked in the US or Europe, and has been unlocked by the stall owner’s hacker-genius cousin using 3rd-party software. This kind of iPhone is cheaper, because you are on your own when it comes to upgrades and iTunes compatibility.

The distribution model is extensive and robust, and in fact most Chinese buy their mobile phones from stalls like this. There are no iPhone shortages, as prices fluctuate to meet demand. The received wisdom is that around 2 million iPhones are in the Chinese wild; I’ve personally seen a good many of them here in Shanghai, where they are much in evidence among the eliterati. Still, this is a minuscule portion of the 700 million odd phones in use in China, of which a small but growing portion is smartphones.

What can Apple do to grow the number of iPhones on mainland China? Short of lowering prices in Hong Kong (not going to happen) it can do two things: Increase awareness of the iPhone via advertising, and bring the benefits of a Chinese-language App Store to Chinese iPhone owners.

To do either of these, you sort of need to sell the product locally first, though. Apple can’t really go round putting up banners in Chinese tier-3 cities urging consumers to head for the local iPhone aftermarket.
Apple … is not revenue-sharing with China Unicom, the local vendor, but selling the iPhones outright to them. It is up to China Unicom to flog them in China.

And that’s what China Unicom is trying to do. China Unicom stores all have iPhone banners up; I’ve passed several China Unicom road shows stopping by Shanghai extolling the iPhone. The iPhone is being talked about widely. But so is the fact that the China Unicom iPhone is crippled — the Chinese are sophisticated consumers; forget this at your own peril.

The upshot: anecdotal reports tell of aftermarket prices increasing for Hong Kong iPhones these past few weeks, as demand increased. Clearly, the advertising is working, even if China Unicom’s sales of wifiless iPhones are anaemic.

Arbitrage is clearly still happening — buy for 4800 RMB in Hong Kong, sell for 6000 RMB in Shanghai; that’s a 25% markup and well above any reasonable estimate of transportation costs — so Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) doesn’t even hold within the “one” country, but this is a great example of gray market imports.

A post from my iPhone

This is a post from the WordPress app on my iPhone. The interface is simple enough, but seems to lack any admin functionality.

The collapse of a monopoly

As I previously mentioned, I got an iPhone for christmas.  In the UK, like the USA, Apple arranged an exclusive deal with one mobile provider, in this case O2.  The cheapest plan that O2 offered was for £35/month, which included the remarkably low 200 minutes and 200 texts per month, but did also allow for unlimited internet usage when using the O2 network rather than a local 802.11 network.

Perhaps because of the increasing availability of iPhone substitutes, perhaps because of the increasing numbers of jail-broken iPhones that can be used on other networks or perhaps because they know that the new v1.1.3. of the iPhone firmware has already been jailbroken and that when combined with the upcoming release of the iPhone SDK, it’ll stay jailbroken, O2 has recently realised that their time of being a true monopolist has ended.   How do I know this?  Because this week I received the following text message from O2:

We’re really pleased to tell you that we are upgrading your £35 iPhone tariff in Feb so you will benefit by mid March at the latest.

The new tariff will take your minutes from 200 to 600 and your texts from 200 to 500.  Plus you’ll continue to receive the same unlimited UK data allowing you to surf the internet on your iPhone.

Better still, you don’t have to do a thing to get them.  We’ll text you to let you know when your new tariff is live.

Simply tap the link to find out more, including details on all our new iPhone tariffs and to see the new tariff terms & conditions.


Which, as a tariff, is much closer to their competitors without the iPhone.  For example, Vodafone’s £35/month plan charges £1 for the first 15MB of internet each day and £2 for each additional MB and includes your choice of:

  • 500 minutes of talk and unlimited texts
  • 750 minutes of talk and 100 texts, or
  • 500 minutes of talk and 500 texts with £52.50 knocked off the 18-month bill.

They’ve only dropped down to the usual category of monopolistic competition (they still have pricing power, which they use to implement second-degree price discrimination), but O2’s time of being a complete monopolist has come to an end.