Carriers, Phones and a few thoughts from India

So I read Nilay's great post on carriers throttling innovation and listening to the podcast as I write this, and I really felt like I should share this in this forum and see what the world really has to say.

Recently, I was having a conversation with a colleague and I was lamenting, yes, I was lamenting why we don't have the system here in India like they do in the USA of having contracts and phone's subsidized with the contract. Here, buying an iPhone, a Galaxy S3, a One X or any of the biggest and greatest phones out there is a matter of some really big financial investment. An iPhone roughly costs 42,000 Rs which is 750$+ going by the current Dollar to Rs exchange rate and the One X and S3 are around roughly the same price plus minus a few thousand rupees or a few hundred dollars. Well, that's expensive. That's really really expensive. And then you want to hold on, wait for the next big phone to arrive to buy that, because come on, once you invest 750$+ on a phone, you wouldn't want to change it soon, would you?

Then you look at the US market and you feel really jealous. Of course I could own a iPhone 4S at the moment if it was 199$. Two years? Yeah, we're used to using phones for more than that so that contract, no big deal.

What I didn't realize was AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc are all operating on a different frequency. And the phones are locked. You can't break away a contract and switch to another network provider. Wait, what?

Let me explain a few things in the Indian market. We have quiet a few number of mobile network providers. BSNL/MTNL (the government owned network), Vodafone, Airtel, Tata Docomo, Aircel among others. 3G is the highest speed we get here, yes, and that too is not consistent in all parts of the city and once you get out of the city, it's down to Edge networks, yes, but we have a choice. Once I choose a Vodafone connection, I can switch the next day, or the next week or the next month to Airtel. Just put the SIM card in, you're ready to go, no issues.

These days, they are even offering us something called a Mobile Number Portability (MNP) where you can RETAIN your number, yet change your network operator. And it costs what, 20 Rs. That's 1/3 of a dollar. Some networks have a better 3G coverage in some cities, some networks have better voice calling plans. And if your usage changes suddenly one week, you can switch to a network provider favorable to you without even changing your number. Well, that's power to the consumers, probably something that the Vergecast wants.

All the phones here are unlocked. We are not bound to any network. The phones here are very costly.

Advantage. Advantage. Disadvantage.

I'm really confused then. Because the phones (S3, S2, HTC's) are not modified for certain networks, they should get updates faster than their US counterparts, right?

That doesn't happen.

Samsung decided to not sell the Galaxy Nexus here in favor of pushing S2 (then) and S3 now.

So I'm not really getting it. First, I expect the phone manufacturers are getting a higher margin and lesser headaches selling phones here in India. Second, consumers really have the freedom to choose their carriers and plans. But still, we don't get the latest and greatest phones/updates when they are released all over the world.

That's one problem. The second is, I'm really confused what's better. Our model, or the US model.

I would really like a iPhone 4S for 199$. That's less than what I paid for my Lumia 710 (roughly 270$). Yet I am not locked down to any network and I have the freedom to choose my plans and my service provider.