This post is a speculation from my experience of an Android phone I think from Saudi Arabia.
I am speculating that Apple is going to have a much tougher time in China than anyone imagines.
To see why you need to go back to my original Samsung Desire HD – which I blogged about in June 2011.
I purchased this phone on Ebay and it came shiny and new in a white box, however the operating system was dodgy. It had a limited choice of language – Arabic, English (UK), Farsi, Urdu.
Most importantly it did not contain any access to the Google market place (Google’s equivalent of the App store). It had limited apps and no possibility of adding more. It contained a non-standard web browser and a non-standard email client (leaving open the possibility of the State watching what I wrote and said). It was not possible to put a Voice over IP app on it. That phone was almost useless – a smartphone without apps. The smartphone of an oppressive regime.
The solution was to root it and load something great (insanely great even). I loved that phone until my wife put it through the washing machine.
Saudi Arabia (or whatever Middle East state it was) could demand smart-phones that were neutered because – well – they had a copy of the source code for Android and could demand and implement any changes they liked. Open source is a force for good or evil and in this case it was evil. Google could distribute “good Android” and the oppressive authorities could force their phone companies to distribute “bad Android”. There will always be an elite who can root their phone and load CyanogenMod or similar – but that will be an elite.
Will this be the oppressive phone of China?
My guess is that will suit China just fine. The phone companies are controlled by the State and they will sell handsets controlled by the State.
You can’t really do that with Apple. Apple is not open source and there is no root operating system that an oppressive state can modify to suit their whims. So the State needs to lean on Apple to do their evil work for them – and that doesn’t work brilliantly. Apple is not going to give away its secrets and the Chinese state will demand more and more.
So I am assuming that if Apple goes mass-market in China it will sell systems with enough “apologies” to the cultural differences of China. Those “apologies” will make a rooted Android massively superior to a botched-up Apple. The elite will want their Samsungs… Some bulls on Apple and China may be just flat wrong…
Just a speculation…
Postscript. The WSJ comes to a similar conclusion…. The key observation – Android in China comes without an App Store as per my Saudi phone… Here is the quote:
Ironically, Google’s Android mobile operating system dominates the smartphone market in China, despite the company’s strained relationship with the government. But those devices don’t come with Google services that are standard elsewhere, such as YouTube, search, and Google Maps. Also, without access to the Google Play store, Chinese users have a weaker selection of apps to choose from.