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Apple's iPhone could find Asia tough to crack

business Updated: Jul 06, 2008 13:35 IST

Mancy Li wants to get her hands on Apple's newest version of the iPhone, but she won't bother to queue up in Hong Kong when it is released in Asia this week.

"I want to get one because it is trendy. It has a touch screen, it looks pretty and it's made by Apple," the 22-year-old visual arts student says.

But she's prepared to wait and see what happens to the price of running the new version of the phone, which Apple hopes will become as big a global hit as its iconic iPod music player.

The iPhone 3G, which Apple is billing as twice as fast and half as expensive as the debut model, will roll out in cities from Tokyo to Sydney on Friday but it could face challenges in Asia it will not have elsewhere.

The company is betting the new phone's third generation (3G) capabilities, such as faster Internet access and file transfer, will make the phone a hit. Like the first version, the new model also has an iPod built in.

Many analysts are upbeat about its prospects, seeing Apple as a brand with a strong cachet in tech-savvy Asia.

"It is going to do well," Aloysius Choong, of Singapore-based industry research group IDC, told AFP.

"Apple is a strong brand in Asia and this is their maiden mobile phone offering in Asia. Just the Apple aura or the Apple halo means that there will be non-Apple users who will look at the product."

But in a region where having the latest gadget is almost an obsession, black market debut-version iPhones are already widely available, serviced by countless shops that "unlock" the software to allow them to operate.