In this week’s edition of The Fonecast, Iain Graham talked to Faisal Sheikh from London-based Fone Doctors about the new Apple iPhone deal with Orange and Vodafone in the UK. As well as connecting mobile phones and selling accessories, Fone Doctors also repairs and unlocks smartphones.
Iain: Has the new iPhone multi-network deal put a big hole in your business plan and your revenue stream from unlocking?
Faisal: I’m absolutely devastated by it – not! To be honest, the iPhone’s been fantastic for us. Not only is it a great product, it’s created massive hype for our industry – the like of which we haven’t seen since we [Fone Doctors] launched in 2003! It’s got people who weren’t interested in mobile thinking about mobile phones again.
It’s ironic that it’s Apple who had that great Superbowl ad from 1984 – when they launched a Mac that was so different, so against the grain – and now Apple are trying to stop the [iPhone] unlockers and we’re the ones trying to be against the grain.
Iain: Is this the start of the iPhone’s dominance of the UK or is it a sign that the iPhone isn’t as desirable as it once was?
Faisal: The iPhone was dominant already. Anyone who wants a phone, wants an iPhone. It’s the most desirable handset out there. Other devices are trying to be iPhone clones or iPhone killers – that phrase in itself sums up the dominance it’s enjoying in the market. The dominance of peoples’ desires; that’s the biggest thing. Not everyone has an iPhone… but most people want an iPhone or something that does what an iPhone does.
Iain: So being on more networks is just going to make it even more popular?
Faisal: It’ll make it more popular, it’ll make it better for us because the supply will increase. The biggest thing with the iPhone right now is the supply is so limited that the price is crazy. With greater supply, the price pressure eases a little bit and hopefully people can get iPhones more easily. They’ll unlock them anyway because people want liberation, they don’t want to be slaves to a particular network. And when you unlock an iPhone, you don’t just free up a carrier lock or a provider lock, you also ‘jailbreak’ the device. Jailbreaking is a real benefit for the iPhone, more than unlocking now, because it’s what gives you access to third-party applications that aren’t officially supported by Apple – our new ‘Big Brother’ – but are made by creative developers all over the world and are probably better than most of the stuff on the official Application Store!
Iain: The next exclusive product from O2 is the Palm Pre. It’s on the same O2 tariff as the iPhone; do you think it’ll have anything like the same impact?
Faiasal: I certainly see it enjoying a cult following, not at the same level as the iPhone. I saw an ad for the Pre on the Verizon US network a few months back; the whole ad focused on how it was better value than the iPhone. You wouldn’t ever see Apple doing that, comparing itself to a competitor – because they don’t need to. They know they’ve got a product that’s good. It’s not the best phone out there but it’s the sexiest phone out there and the most desirable phone out there! Personally, I think the Google [G1] Phone might not be as good-looking but it’s probably a lot better inside. We call it the Shrek Phone here at Fone Doctors because it’s such a beautiful phone on the inside!
O2 shouldn’t pin their hopes on the Pre; it’ll get them a good cult following but I can’t see it being a mass-market product like the iPhone is. If they try to be another iPhone they’ll fail miserably. If they try to be a Palm Pre – and it’s got some great features to it – they’ll do well.
You can hear the full interview in this week’s edition of The Fonecast on our website, via our RSS feed or on iTunes.