Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, has been a contrarian market for smartphones. It is one of the few markets worldwide where the Blackberry beats the iPhone as a consumer smartphone.

Generally, the Blackberry is seen more as a device that companies issue to their employees, while iPhone is the one that people choose for themselves.

Just look at the levels of search on Google for Blackberry vs iPhone or which phone is used more by people to look at AdMob’s online advertisements in Indonesia.

CNN recently reported cellphone salesmen as selling 5 Blackberries for each time they sell one iPhone. The Jakarta Globe quoted some phone sellers back in October as saying that the Blackberry outsells the iPhone at a pace of 12-to-1.

Why? There are a number of factors that come into play in Indonesia. These include:

1- Cost of a Blackberry
A legally purchased Blackberry in Indonesia costs just US$500 new, compared to US$900 for an iPhone. A Blackberry smuggled in on the gray market without import taxes costs just US$300.

2- iTunes Indonesia and Blackberry Fashion
The site still offers no tunes, only apps for the phone. This is a key missing element in the Apple ecosystem. (h/t Stuart) In addition, the Blackberry has become a fashion accessory for many in Indonesia, moving in on Apple’s monopoly on tech-cool.

3- Internet cost: $17 or $100
Broadband at home is incredibly expensive in Indonesia. It ends up costing US$100 to have broadband: US$70 per month for a landline + US$30 for ADSL. This is why roughly 30 million people in Indonesia may have Internet access, but only about 2.5 million have dedicated access. Even if you can afford broadband at home, the speed is often not reliable. Most people rely on shared Internet connections in places such as libraries or Internet cafe.

By comparison, a prepaid Blackberry plan for US$17 per month will give you unlimited data with some calls and sms. (Roughly 97 percent of telco customers in Indonesia use prepaid)

An additional impetus to use mobile Internet: Have you ever been stuck in Jakarta traffic? There’s  plenty of time to surf the net on your mobile. Mobile users in Indonesia now outnumber computer Internet users by 5 to 1, according to Internet World Stats.

Impact on Social Media
One impact of this phenomenon in Social Media has been the rapid growth of Facebook due to their Blackberry app. Thanks to Blackberry, Facebook killed Friendster in Indonesia.

Why does Indonesia matter?
While Internet penetration is remains around 12 percent, mobile penetration in Indonesia is more than 50 percent and growing fast. In absolute terms, Indonesia will likely become the world’s third largest mobile phone market, after China and India. In other words, this demand could have a huge impact on Blackberry’s bottom line.

Any further thoughts from readers in Indonesia?

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44 comments

  1. May not be material to the overall figures, but Telkomsel (who flog the iPhone) are utterly inept — check their website — says it all. Also the 3Gs hasn't been released here yet, so many now holding off (or buying unlocked phones in Sg and bringing down). From what I've heard getting onto Telkomsel's one year program for the iPhone is nigh on impossible — money up front please.

    for US$70/month households with a landline can get unlimited Speedy ADSL service — can be priced as little as $30 depending on how much bandwidth you need. In my experience, the 3G network is a joke outside of Bali and Jakarta.

    Also worth noting that Indo iTunes only has the Appstore — no tunes — so perhaps less of a selling point.

    Agree tho — huge potential — but I do believe that has been used with regards to Indonesia on many occasions past!

  2. Melina

    In social relationship, the Blackberry PIN becomes one of the ID people usually asked. we, Indonesian people mostly are asking: “Do u have any BB (Blackberry) PIN?” at first instead of phone number or any other IM's ID.

    BlackBerry becomes one of the most have gadget.

  3. Very interesting! I love the conjunction of culture and technology.

  4. It should also be noted how ridiculously easy it is to sign up for a prepaid plan for blackberry in Indonesia. All you have to do is dial *XXX# (where XXX is some 3 digit number assigned by your carrier), and you can choose to sign up for a daily, weekly or monthly plan. daily plan from AXIS is Rp 3900 (~39 cents), weekly Rp 25000 (~USD 2.5), and monthly Rp 125,000 (~USD12.50).

    when i got my Bold 3 months ago in Indonesia I was up and running within 10 mins of purchasing. very easy and hassle free, as opposed to signing up for a broadband internet which took us a week to do with all the paperwork.

  5. guntar

    In Indonesia, Blackberry is perceived as a premium gadget which can give a boost on personal value (i.e. to be more awesome). Thus, there are still many who buy blackberry just for the sake of coolness among friends and colleague, and not for either business or personal productivity sake. Moreover, currently, there are dozens of qwerty smartphone (with price below $100) and blackberry alike sold in Indonesia. For those who can't afford blackberry, they're content with having facebook more than the premium phone. The young and teenage beggars even use their 'income' to buy such facebook gadget.

  6. I'm glad that the Blackberry is doing better in Indonesia. I think it is a superior phone to the iphone. The iphone is one of the most overrated phones out there in my opinion and I hope that Blackberry continues to climb, especially in the U.S.

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  8. Mark

    All good…but you left out secure messaging via BlackBerry Messenger. No pay-per-sms and since it goes through BIS's servers in Canada and not through the Telco's servers in Indonesia, BBM is viewed as much more secure than SMS

  9. David Simon

    Hi, I am just visiting Singapore and I could say I really envy the Singaporean. They can have iPhone in a very affordable price. This is my third day here and it seems that every hour on the street, I can spot at least three of four iPhone user. I am really puzzled why Apple let Telkomsel monopolizes the distribution of iPhone in Indonesia. If only Apple let other corporation such as Smart (who has the cheapest data plan now) to distribute iPhone as well with good pricing and promotion, I can guarantee that Apple will gain lots of profit here.

  10. With over 70 million youth in Indonesia owning a mobile phone, this is one market on the move. Not just in terms of top line numbers but also how Blackberry and Twitter are developing key Beachheads of influence within the youth segment. Graham Brown of Youth Research Partners and Muhammad Faisal of Youth Research Laboratory Indonesia share their insights on the latest research report Youth Mobile Trends Indonesia in this 27 minute webinar.

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  19. Kevin

    who is know how much does a blackbery coast in bali?

  20. Kevin

    do you know how much does a blackbery cost in bali indonesia?

  21. Kevin

    who is know how much does a blackbery coast in bali?

  22. Kevin

    do you know how much does a blackbery cost in bali indonesia?

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  24. as opposed to signing up for a broadband internet which took us a week to do with all the paperwork.

  25. Jean

    onyx = $300 – $320

  26. Goft Chieftain

    ya, I agree with your opinion.. I'm Indonesian, and I'm using BB for know, this fucking metal square is suck!!
    I want to buy an iPhone, but its too expensive here, i just a 17y.o boy and I will not waste a $700 just for smartphone (but honestly, i want it so much lol)

    fyi: blackberry bold 9700 = $300 – $320 & iPhone 3gs 16GB = < $600

  27. guest

    this could be another factor as blackberry was introduce in 2008 as barack obama make fuss about refusing to let go his own blackberry after he was elected to be 44th U.S. president. while most indonesians were very interested in obama mostly because he is somehow related to indonesian. (his background that he was visiting primary school in jakarta) this influence the curiosity of most indonesian about blackberry and which based on your graphic that google search about blackberry increased in 2008. should obama choose another mobile device, today could be another story.

  28. iSayuSay

    I'm Indonesian, and really I'm so ashamed by this reality. RIM must be enjoy their sales here, they look at us for some money in our head. Not to mention Indonesia is really a nice place for technological slavery.

    Problem is, many of us here don't own BlackBerry for the original purpose or intended reason, they own it for style, showing off and bragging rights ..

    I dont have problem with BlackBerry device, really .. but why anyone has to own one? If not, you'll just end up deserted, considered poor or … strange.

    Well tell you what, I have an iPhone .. which far better and more expensive, so I dont really care about BlackBerry

  29. Kdwildman

    I just bought my fiance a new 9780 Blackberry Bold in Bali for 4.2 million Rp.  :)

  30. Yuliyanikm9

    Most of Indonesians are opera soup freaks, including my mother I think, and here where everything begins. many acts in various opera soups use blackberry as their devices so people start to think that it's cool to have a blackberry, it'll make them look like those actors and actresses in the opera soups. LOL,,,that's what i think as one of those indonesian blackberry users 😀

  31. plato

    With different view (social spreading), please visit..
    How Blackberry Becomes A Damned Mass Trend
    goo.gl/NFmhy

    just for fun..

  32. Kalvin

    This post was written on Jan 2010, and I would agree 100% with the opinion stated above then. However, now in 2012 I'm seeing trends of people carrying two phones. Blackberry and iPhone/Andriod. A lot of my friends, including myself. are using two phones because of several reasons.

    1) I still love my BB but it is so outdated. even the Torch or the new Bold with touch screen can not compete with the user experience you get from iPhone/Andriod. If RIM do not tackle these problems (the fact that they are maintaining their stance of 'phone is only for emails and communication'), in the near future i'm sure BB will start to lose its grip in the market, history repeating itself.

    2) The main reason why I am still using my BB is because of BBM. Sure there are cross-platform communication like Whatassp. but who are we kidding. it's not as good as BBM. and without BBM, you literally have no way of socialising/communicating with everyone else in Indonesia.
    3) Why am I 'migrating' to iPhone you ask? User-experience. One thing that frustrates me the most with BB is its lack of user-experience for social media or apps. If they had allow installation of apps in its media-card OR at least increase their internal memory by a few more gb. I probably wouldn't buy my iPhone. So many times I want to install some apps like facebook, twitter, whatsapp, g-maps, foursquare, etc.. just those simple 'necessary' apps, no game..but the internal gets clogs.. memory leak in BB is ridiculous. So i have had enough of these limitations and migrating to iPhone. 

    On the other hand, I do prefer the QWERT keyboard over touch screen. And i would prefer to keep my phone as a phone rather than a distraction with games etc. (we have iPads for that) but as for 2012. I will be using two phones. Weighing which one is a better choice. and HOPING that RIM will come out with some magic and get on with the game.

    There is a reason why everyone in the western world are choosing iPhone/Andriod over BB.. and Indonesia is a growing market which is slow in its intake of 'new' technology. I can see the growing frustration by a lot of people and the available alternatives in the market..

    Let's just pray for BB. I am still a fan and customer of BB but hopefully Apple won't take my soul. 

  33. Kalvin

    that is so true. Indonesia is probably the easiest place i've been, to sign up for a BB plan. anywhere else. even now is damn hard and expensive. with so many paperworks.

  34. Elzafir Habsjah

    Dude, it's “soap opera”, not “opera soup”…

  35. Elzafir Habsjah

    I actually agree with this point. Obama played a big role in BlackBerry adoption in Indonesia. After he got elected, the upper class began to purchase BlackBerry's. Then the hipsters followed suit. They began to communicate by BBM. Other people then started to ditch their Nokia dumbphones and went for the Curve 8320. So, almost everybody with money was using the Curve. Then RIM released the Bold 9000. People who were the early adopters didn't feel special anymore with their Curve being so popular, so they jumped ship to the Bold, even though it costs almost $900 retail when it was released. Then the cycle continues.

    And its worth of note that in Indonesia, there's no “carrier-subsidized” phones. You practically have to buy phones in retail stores with their full price tags. And then you decide between carriers, either contract or pay-as-you-go. Lately, carriers began directly selling iPhones, but they still selling it with full price, albeit offering bonus minutes, SMS, and unlimited internet access for 6 months or so.

  36. Elzafir Habsjah

    You, Sir, are officially a STUPID person.

  37. Elzafir Habsjah

    iPhone is the premium gadget. Since the 3G was released in Indonesia on early 2009.  Get your facts straight.

  38. Elzafir Habsjah

    Even iTunes sells mp3s, I doubt Indonesian would buy songs for $0.99 each, as they could get pirated CDs filled with hundreds MP3s on the street for that exact amount.

    Therefore, your argument is INVALID.

    Main selling point of BB is the BBM. Apple didn't conceived a BBM killer until 2011 (iMessage), and Android didn't even have one (GTalk is a joke).

    So, until Apple sells a cheap iPhone (for $300-400) with iMessage capabilities, (they could sell iPhone 5 as flagship and make an “iPhone 5 LE” as budget model), people won't adopt iPhone in place of the already common and very cheaply available BlackBerry.

  39. iPhone is the one that people choose for themselves.

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