Will the iPhone Conquer India?

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is opening up more and more.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Mac maker is in discussion with two Indian telecommunications carriers to bring the iPhone to the subcontinent. Interestingly, both candidates -- Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices -- use the same CDMA technology for their networks that Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) uses.

And that's important. On Friday, The New York Times broke the news that Apple plans an iPhone 4 for Verizon's network early next year.

Don't cash that reality check yet
So how big is this news for India? Probably not as big as bullish investors would like to believe, though shares of Apple are outperforming the market this week as news leaks about Apple's iPhone expansion in various geographies.

"There is a segment of users in India who will love an iPhone, but [that group] is very small and mass adoption is very far away," says my Foolish colleague Tim Hanson, co-advisor for Motley Fool Global Gains. I think he's right.

For all the talk of there being more than 600 million mobile users in India, most of those handsets aren't smartphones. They're low-cost feature phones from Samsung and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , the long-leading mobile supplier on the subcontinent.

What's more, smartphones account for less than 1% of mobile devices sold in India, and Nokia supplies 71% of that total, the Journal reports.

A wireless infrastructure build-out funded by local and foreign tower operators such as American Tower (NYSE: AMT  ) will help get the Indian wireless grid ready to handle the iPhone and other invading smartphones. But that, too, will take time.

The other "A" stock in India
Meanwhile, Tim and Global Gains co-advisor Nathan Parmelee are looking for stock ideas among companies addressing India's most basic needs: food, water, roads, and electricity.

Stocks such as ABB (NYSE: ABB  ) , a Swiss power specialist that Tim says just bought out its Indian subsidiary. "[The company] is betting big on electrical grid expansion, which is a precursor to widespread mobile or Internet adoption," Tim says.

ABB also paid a 2.2% dividend yield as of the time of publication.

As heartened as I am to see Apple exploring the subcontinent and widening its embrace of technology standards, there are better reasons to invest in the stock. Principally: because it's still cheap relative to the company's growth opportunity.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Will the iPhone succeed on the subcontinent? Share your thoughts in the comments box below, and if you're interested in Apple, click here to add it to your Foolish watchlist.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. American Tower is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Nokia is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. ABB is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy forgot its umbrella today. Bad timing.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2010, at 7:38 PM, whiteboard wrote:

    The (GSM) iPhone has been available in India (officially) for 2 years now. It has not been as much of a success as in the US.

    A CDMA iPhone may not actually make much difference.

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