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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - iPhone struggles for a place in Cambodian market

iPhone struggles for a place in Cambodian market

130115 07
Customers look at smartphones and tablets at a Hakse shop in Phnom Penh, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

It will not be enough for Apple to simply offer a cheaper iPhone for the company to gain share in the competitive Cambodian smartphone market, according to industry insiders.

They say Apple’s operating system, iOS, may also restrict their potential growth.

Bloomberg last week reported that Apple was planning a smaller, more cost-effective iPhone to compete with brands offering cheaper alternatives in Asian markets.

Apple is weighing retail prices of $99 to $149 for such a device, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Samsung is leading the pack in Cambodia, and Smart Mobile chief executive Thomas Hundt says this is largely because of the diversity Samsung offers, particularly in the lower-end segment that gives the brand its greatest market share.

Hundt said that although there was still demand in Cambodia for the higher-end iPhone, cost was a definite factor hitting Apple’s share.

“The sheer price tag of the iPhone is limiting their market,” Hundt said.

Samsung’s Gwihan Lee  said the Korean brand was number one in Cambodia because it offered consumers a greater choice as well as continued investment in branding that strengthened the brand’s market position.

“Cambodian customers are familiar with the Samsung brand,” Lee said.

Hor Hap, deputy managing director of G-Gear, an LG Mobile authorised distributor in Cambodia, said it was not just a matter of bringing out a cheaper phone to compete.

In the Cambodian market, a company had to also consider the operating system, Hor Hap said.

“LG is very popular, and it is the only smartphone that offers the official Khmer language, Unicode,” he said.

Recognising the growth in demand, Nokia, too, will introduce a smartphone powered by the Windows Phone 8 operating system to the Cambodian market this year.

Nokia Cambodia communications manager Y Sokun said the new Nokia smartphone would have greater flexibility than the current basic Nokia smartphone on the Cambodian market and would compete directly with Android phones.

“The Nokia powered by Windows Phone 8 will be the key alternative in this market,” Sokun said.

Regardless of the introduction of a more cost-efficient alternative, the iPhone still has definite appeal among some consumers.

“A good high-end smartphone is still a status symbol here [in Cambodia],” Thomas Hundt said.

According to Bloomberg, the cheaper iPhone may be available later this year.

Apple had been working on a more affordable smartphone since at least February, 2011, the report said.

Bloomberg reported that adding a cheaper version of the iPhone would be a strategy shift for Apple, which so far has been targeting budget-conscious customers by cutting the prices of its older models.

Last month, the Post reported that the number of SIM cards sold in Cambodia had reached more than 20 million, surpassing the country’s population of 15 million.

So Khun, minister for the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, said last month the rise in the number of SIM cards sold exceeded Cambodia’s population because people tended to have more than one SIM card, due to the convenience of services provided by the operators.

Last December, LG Electronics, in partnership with locally based G-Gear, launched its first LG Brand Shop in Phnom Penh.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel de Carteret at dandecarteret@gmail.com

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