If you repeat a lie often enough…

Posted on Monday, May 07, 2012

…it becomes the truth.

This morning Enrique Carrier (@enriquecarrier) tweets that he went to Buenos Aires’ premier modern art museum (MAMBA) and was invited to download their app — only for iPhone.

Enrique has a good grasp of the smartphone market since his firm CarrierYAssoc tracks local production and imports. He estimates that iPhone is only about 1% of the Argentine smartphone market.

So MAMBA went to the trouble of paying for an app — no doubt beautifully designed — and it is only useful for much less than 1% of the Argentine population. One could be elitist and say that those 1% represent the top socio-economic levels of Argentine society and so MAMBA’s target for things like donations, memberships and the purchase of hernia-inducing books in the gift shop. But that still would only be a small percentage of all those with smartphones and who came to the museum and so might be interested in a relationship — economic or otherwise — with the institution.

In some sense, how can we blame MAMBA?

They probably don’t subscribe to Enrique’s blog so they don’t have the facts. Instead they probably have to rely on their own staff — who like most art-oriented types are likely Apple aficionados — OR the popular press. And the popular press in Latin America either cribs from the US and European press (where iPhone IS the dominant smartphone platform) or makes this stuff up out of their own preferences.

This is very unfortunate for Blackberry / RIM which DOES have the largest smartphone share in most Latin American markets. In fact, Latin America is a bright spot for RIM in an otherwise relatively dismal market situation where the US press chants its demise with some frequency. It seems that Wall Street traders like iPhones and at the very least US reporters aspire to have iPhones so the whole world wants and indeed HAS iPhones.

I won’t get into whether the whole world WANTS iPhones but the data doesn’t support at all the assumption that the whole world has an iPhone. They don’t. For one thing they are way too expensive for perhaps 95% of the world’s population and in the particular case of MAMBA’s target audience, they are not manufactured locally in Argentina. With Argentina’s currently mad import controls, that means few or no iPhones even make into the market.

But the US market shows that the old adage I used to introduce this comment certainly holds: the press and Wall Street have combined to drive RIM into the lower reaches of the market share league tables and iPhone to the top.

I’m just not so sure that can ever happen in Latin America although it might. One of the reasons iPhones are accessible to a broad population in North America and Europe is the prevalence of subsidies in postpaid plans. The vast majority of mobile phone users outside these markets is in prepaid and phones are not subsidized. A top-of-the-line 64GB iPhone4S in Mexico costs over $1000 and I recently calculated that a minimum-wage earner would have to work 221 days — nearly a working year — to pay for it.

Bottom Line: RIM and Samsung (the top Android brand) need to better broadcast the real story so that content producers have the information they need to make the right platform decisions. Or in the words of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean “a lie becomes the truth”.

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