Word has just come in from UK iPhone carrier O2 that the company has missed its goal of 200,000 iPhones sold since Nov. 9. Apple managed to move 190,000 iPhones in the UK, and rumors and early reports suggest the iPhone has been slow to gain traction in Europe.
Which really isn’t too surprising. As much as some people in the U.S. have complained about a lack of tactile feedback on the iPhone’s keyboard, we’re novices in texting compared to Europe and Asia. People are so fast at T9 texting over there that many hardcore users are faster with a standard keypad than they are with a QWERTY thumbpad, let alone a QWERTY touchscreen.
Bruce Nussbaum over at BusinessWeek speculates that the iPhone’s weak texting capability might be to blame. Though iPhone software 1.1.3 now supports multi-user texts, it still doesn’t allow SMS forwarding, both of which are key features in the UK and especially in India. A co-worker of mine noted on Friday that texting is so prevalent in India compared to e-mail that people in India circulate lame jokes to their friends via SMS instead of e-mail. The lack of a physical keyboard will never fly over there.
The iPhone is far from in trouble in the U.S. – it could scarcely be doing better, but I do wonder about its long-term future overseas. Mobile phones play a very different role in Europe and Asia than they do here, and the iPhone will need to work harder to make an impact.