I have just spent a week in the Philippines as a guest speaker at a meetings industry trade show and conference where I spoke on ‘Technovations – the hottest tech for the future’ and gave another speech on ‘content capture, repurposing, monetization and distribution’ (sounds boring but it is really important to the Association based conference market).
Tech stores are everywhere (even on the footpath) as Gen X and Y consumers come into the 21st century using the country's reasonably well developed 3G and rapidly developing 4G LTE network. So what does a tech journalist do – visit as many of them to get the lie of the land (note lay of the land is something else entirelyJ).
Android is everywhere – Apple is conspicuous by its absence. When asked “’Why?” the response is that Apple is just too expensive and too closed and Android is cheaper and seen as more universal – understood by all.
The next thing to note is the huge choice of Android devices. Samsung rules the prestige end of the market (with HTC and LG chasing sales) but ZTE, Huawei and the Philippines own brand MyPhone (4.5 and 5” models, 8MP camera, Android 4.X, 3G, Dual SIM at $100 and $150 respectively) and its 7” MyPad at $125 control the value end.
Nokia has a presence but mainly in the Asha (phone plus email and browsing) range where it is price competitive. The Nokia branded store says that the flagship Lumia 920 sells to those who can afford $575 compared to the iPhone5, 16GB at $750 ($799 inc GST here). The iPhone4, 8GB sells around $400 ($449 inc GST here) but even this cheaper, older model suffers because of its association with a brand perceived to be too expensive – that is an interesting comment and may be relevant to any future Apple strategy to introduce a cheaper mass market phone.
Another interesting fact is that in the Asian market Android has taken over. TECHinASIA just carried the headline ‘Dear Apple, Amazon, Google: Here is why Chinese consumers hate your ecosystems’ and the gist is that Asian consumers are rejecting any ‘walled garden’ approach. 189 million smartphones were sold in China last year – 86% were Android (the market is about 300 million in 2013). Simply put Asians like competition and like bargaining – something Apple does not do.
Yes Apple will sell some of its prestige products there but the 1.4 billion people, about half of them in poverty will drive value sales giving locals like ZTE and Huawei the massive economy of scale they need to compete on the world market.
Apple now occupies sixth place in smartphone sales well below Samsung, Lenovo (watch for this brand to debut its smartphones here), CoolPad (a clone maker selling an iPhone 5 ‘wanabe’ for $80), ZTE and Huawei. iTunes is not well supported – a local product iTools is. Jailbreaking is common place for those who can afford to purchase iOS products so Apple misses out on its monetization platform.
Their aversion to Google comes from its repeated stoushes with their Government which has seen Google, G+, Google Drive, Picasa, Blogger, YouTube and AppSpot blocked but the Android smart phones on sale there are customised so they don’t require a Google Account (as it does here) to be functional and there are plenty of home grown cloud drive, mail services, music and 3rd party app stores to use. – ‘China loves Android, but only in its own image’.
Their aversion to Amazon is more about Kindle. Amazon runs China’s fifth largest e-commerce site but its netizens don’t appear to want to embrace its hardware and web platform. Local e-readers like Shanda’s Bambook or Dandanfs Doucon are popular – again because they will bargain on price.
Microsoft is treading on new ground in Asia as well as it tries to force Windows 8 Phone and its computer OS on users - Outlook and its Marketplace is as equally restrictive as Apple’s Appstore.
The Philippines is not the most economically advanced country in the world - 5% of the population control 95% of the wealth so price must be a ruling factor and the local MyPhone makes reliable products that meets Samsung’s functionality at closer to half its price.
While I was there there the Catholic Cardinal (93% are Roman Catholic) asked Filipinos to give up the evil, bad Facebook and Twitter for lent – ignore the word of God at your peril.
The Philippines is a lovely place to visit – its 350 years under Spanish rule and its multicultural heritage from Japan and US rule as well as its English language make this island nation something special. As the web site says “Its more fun in the Philippines” and it certainly is.
(I was a guest of the Philippines Tourism Promotions Board and will resume regular iTWire postings later in March)