G'Five overtakes Samsung in India: What does this mean for your favorite mobile OS?

With a market share of 31.5 percent, Nokia is still the largest vendor of handsets in the Indian market, followed by Chinese brand G’Five with about 10 percent share, IDC said on Wednesday.

via PCWorld.

No, I haven’t heard of G’Five either. The article goes on to say that there are 68 new vendors in the market accounting for 41% of total shipments. There were only five new vendors with a share of 1% in the first quarter of 2008.

It was not long ago that Nokia held over 70% of the Indian market. That market is now larger but the share for Nokia has dropped by half at least. The share was not lost to Samsung but to 63 new entrants. They managed to capture 40% of the market, roughly equal to what Nokia lost.

These new vendors will launch Android phones next year or the year after that. According to IDC, Android obtained 9.4% in the third quarter up from 2.9% y/y. The number of Android models went from 2 to 19 in the same time frame.

What does this mean for Your favorite mobile OS?

I’m sure many will use the Indian example as evidence of the inevitable ubiquity of Android. However, I would note that data networks are still very sparse in India and 3G has not reached a level of penetration that makes mobile broadband a common experience [citation needed].

The funny thing is that this lack of connectivity is not likely to be an obstacle to Android as it wasn’t an obstacle to Symbian in the pre-3G era in Europe. More than half of Nokia’s smartphones were selling without data plans in Europe well into 2009. Nearly all were selling without data in Africa, Middle East and India. Smartphones without data plans are just high end feature phones. They can be used for picture/video taking, listening to music/video, FM radio and, if they have a keyboard, for more productive text messaging. In emerging markets dual SIMs, FM radio and removable storage are killer features. Mobile browsing isn’t.

A lack of broadband is however an obstacle to the iPhone. Here’s why:

With the exception of those seeking “luxury” phones (a very small minority), the iPhone is too expensive in markets without subsidy. That’s because the price Apple sets is very high (€630 or well over $800 at retail). This is not entirely because the product is inherently more expensive. Much of that extra cost is margin for Apple. What makes it popular is that much of that extra cost is paid by the operator who accounts for it as a subsidy. Don’t pity the operator though. That subsidy is there for a reason: because the product entices users to data-oriented consumption at a higher monthly service fee.

The entire business model for the iPhone is to wrap a high-ARPU mobile broadband service plan with shiny metal and glass.

Put another way, an iPhone without a broadband connection is just a voice phone with an integrated iPod touch. You’re better off getting a cheap phone and an iPod, or maybe an Android or Nokia phone.

When the iPhone 3G launched in India in 2008 with a price near $1000 it flopped. Many were quick to note that Apple did not understand the market. However few pointed out that the “3G” in the product’s name was not just a marketing ploy. It was its Raison d’être.

To study the impact of iPhone in emerging markets you need to first plot out the penetration of mobile broadband.