iPod Overseas Report: Singapore | iLounge Article

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iPod Overseas Report: Singapore

Read Parts I, III, and IV: iPod Overseas Report: Tokyo, iPod Overseas Report: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Backstage: Asian Gadgetry and the Future of iPod?.

If Hollywood’s more optimistic visions are realized, cities of the future will be large, yet clean. They will be covered in brand names and logos; populous, prosperous, and capitalist. Thus they will, in short, look almost exactly like the better parts of Singapore, a city-state that has emerged as a high-tech mecca of sorts in Southeast Asia. You may recall the name from tabloid headlines - public canings of vandals, executions of drug traffickers, and so on - and the reasons for its strict laws become obvious once you’re here: this is a city on the edge of tomorrow, safe, clean, and forward-looking, so the government here wants to keep it that way.

 

Yet like Tokyo, Japan, Singapore is a place with multiple personalities, here multicultural to an impressive extreme. There is a downtown city core of British colonial halls and impressive skyscrapers, including buildings by I.M. Pei. And there are modern shopping centers such as Suntec City Mall, Orchard Road, and Marina Square. But then the subway connects to less modern areas, ones with tremendous ethnic personality - Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street.

Not surprisingly, each one has shops and restaurants reflecting their distinctive cultural characters. But this is a melting pot nation, where massive, government-subsidized international food courts called Food Centres place Halaal Islamic food stands only a stone’s throw away from shops offering Pig’s Brain Soup and pitchers of Tiger Beer.

As in other foreign capitals we’ve visited, the citizens here are in the midst of a switch from traditional CD-based music to compressed digital media, and one of the leading local sponsors is Creative Technology, makers of the Zen series of portable media players. It’s probably fair to characterize Creative as Singapore’s favorite son in the same way that Sony is Japan’s - aside from the fact that its headquarters are here, and that it runs a local iTunes-like music service called SoundBuzz, Creative’s presence on the streets is considerable. Local stores carry the full range of Zen players in a way that few stores in US or Japan do, including everything from low-end flash players to the latest Zen Vision: M, Creative’s clone of the fifth-generation iPod.

(As we’ve had some time to play with the Vision: M, we’ll note as a brief aside that it’s a pretty successful iPod wannabe; despite comparative photographs floating around on the Internet, the differences between its screen and the iPod’s are not pronounced, and it has a couple of annoying interface issues, but its additional functionality (FM tuner, built-in microphone, additional video standards support) is undeniably a selling point. Still, we haven’t seen anyone actually using them - or other Zens - outside of stores during our travels. The 30GB Vision: M sells for around a $40 premium here over the 30GB iPod.)

Yet these stores, and even resellers largely focused on Sony products here, also almost invariably carry something else: iPods. Frankly, we were surprised at just how much of a presence the iPod family has in Singapore, given Creative’s established position and the continued appearance of cheap devices from comparatively obscure companies. True, there are many electronics shops in Singapore that sell these MP3 players, and a good number selling the newer thing - MP4 video players, typically tiny ones. But comparatively few of them are selling only these devices, and not iPods as well.

Gobs of iPods. Stores here have lots of them - at least, nanos and full-sized models. As in Tokyo, where we ultimately saw a total of one person (a child) wearing an iPod shuffle during our travels, the lowest-end iPod appears to be very rare here, both in stores and on the streets. We saw a bunch in Little India’s 24-hour Mustafa Centre, but not elsewhere. Rather, the nano appears to be the inspirational iPod of choice, as we’ve seen a couple of different “win iPod nano” contests sponsored by major stores or restaurants.

What sort of stores are carrying iPods? We’ve seen them all over - in Mustafa Centre, tens of stores in the six-story mall called Sim Lim Square (below), and dotting the electronics merchants on famous Orchard Road. The sheer number of iPods in stock is somewhat amazing in that Japanese and American resellers seem to be having such a hard time getting them, yet unlike the Japanese Microsoft Xbox 360 story we relayed, the issue here doesn’t appear to be a lack of demand: wherever we walked, people were checking out MP3 players and asking specifically about the iPod and accessories. Prices here are a bit higher than in the USA and Japan - there are $35 premiums for each full-sized iPod, for instance - and unlike other devices, there’s no major discount to be had through hardware haggling.

We’ve also seen a couple of interesting differences between the Singaporean trade in iPods and the Japanese/American ones: those accessories, especially good ones, aren’t anywhere near as widespread here as elsewhere. Taking the legitimate accessories first, we’ve been shocked by the presence of JBL’s Creatures virtually everywhere we’ve looked - they appear to be one of the most popular major brand speakers, store-wise at least, we’ve seen here. A more than fair number of stores also stock JBL’s On Stage, Altec Lansing’s inMotion series, and Logic 3’s i-Station. One even had XtremeMac’s MicroBlast for iPod nano, which we have yet to see in a store in the United States.

The bigger surprise is just how widespread no-name brands are here, and how much they’re copying well-known products. We’ll put aside SonicGear’s i-Steroid 1 and 2 vacuum tube speaker systems, which duplicate the layout of a 4G/5G iPod’s front Click Wheel for bass and volume controls. We’ll also ignore the company’s 2GO i-3000, which is a lot like JBL’s On Stage, but cheaper and cheaper-looking. These products are merely derivative by comparison with some of the other stuff we’ve seen, and they’re being sold in an authorized retailer (Apple Centre) in Sim Lim Square.

The bigger problems are the iPod and nano accessories below, found at Gadget Centre in Sim Lim Square. Like the accessory that looks exactly like Apple’s official iPod nano Armband, but isn’t, because a company copied it and its packaging pretty closely.

And then there’s the company that has taken the name from Speck’s SkinTight cases, and used it on its own series of cases that sit right next to the real thing on another store’s racks. There are at least as many of the green-packaged non-Speck cases as the orange original SkinTights.

Singapore isn’t known for knock-offs in the way that China is, but it’s obvious that a lot of these junky clones are coming out of Chinese and Taiwanese factories, some worse than others. Most of the low-end accessories we’ve seen in the past have been of two types - charging cables and silicone cases - but these companies appear to be evolving, copying everything from accessory packaging to designs. As it’s already had to fight a few iPod cloners, we’d expect Apple to have considerable challenges ahead in 2006 stemming the rise of these new accessory copycats, as well. On the bright side, companies such as Belkin and Griffin have a decent presence here already, and do not appear to have been cloned… yet.

Though the answer could be “yes” because of Creative’s presence here alone, it remains to be seen whether Singapore is strategically important enough to Apple to focus on as another iPod beachhead in Asia. At the moment, there’s very little direct iPod advertising here - mostly posters in stores - and no iTunes Music Store. Local stores have comparatively sophisticated point-of-sale displays for the Zen product lines (below), and cheap, seemingly hand-crafted display cases for iPods. It says something that these stores have bothered to make the effort on Apple’s behalf: their customers are obviously requesting more. The total space devoted to iPods and accessories is considerable, and their placement near the front of stores, at eye or waist level, is generally quite impressive. Some stores have really nice displays to highlight the iPod (above), even as they also try to sell its competitors.

We hope you enjoyed this look at the iPod world in Singapore. Our previous iPod Overseas Report on Tokyo, Japan is still online. Want to contribute a report from your city? E-mail jeremy (at) iLounge.com. Otherwise, we will look forward to your comments.

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Comments

1

I’m from Singapore, and I thought I’ll add some comments. The iPod is definitely the digital music player of choice here. When I got my 4G iPod, I was the rare Singaporean to be seen on the streets with an iPod. Since then however, it is impossible to go out without seeing people use them. The article concludes that shuffles are rare, actually that is not at all the case. I see shuffles very often, they are very popular with kids who want a piece of the iPod action. By far the most popular iPod here has been the mini. Apple actually has a pretty strong advertising presence here too, and new Apple stores have been popping up, we also have iPod specific stores now.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 19, 2005 at 8:59 AM (CST)

1

I’m from Singapore too. I’ll very much rather say that the ipod mini is the most popular ipod among teenagers, and most ipod owners are teenagers here.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 19, 2005 at 10:03 AM (CST)

1

I’m another one that’s from Singapore. I own a first generation 10GB iPod and a second generation 20GB iPod and have been an iPod user since December 2001. Before the third generation iPods appeared, I’ve never seen anyone on the street using an iPod. It was only until Apple introduced the third generation iPod that I saw more and more people owning iPods.

By Apple’s introduction of the iPod mini and 4G iPod, everyone was using them. Although iPods dominate the MP3 market share in Singapore, there is still a considerable amount of people using and adopting Creative’s Zen range, especially the Zen micro when it came out as an iPod mini competitor. It was at this point that the MP3 player market in Singapore started to boom and take shape. There were many who went for the Zen Micro due to its smaller form factor and features, which the iPod mini lacked.

I believe that was the only time that Creative actually had a chance in competing with Apple in the MP3 player market and after that period, Apple dominated, and still is.

However I feel there has been a lack in advertising of iPods in Singapore and the advertising done here is nothing compared to what they have in the States or Japan. Apart from a few TV spots that were aired sparingly and some ads featuring Apple products in the papers, there really hasn’t been much advertising here. Most of the hype is generated by writers and reviewers contributing to magazines, tabloids and such.

I believe with Apple’s introduction of the iPod 5G and the nanos, there will be a great increase in iPod adoption here in Singapore and I can already see the trend picking up with greater number of people on the streets and public transports holding iPod nanos and using the distinctive white Apple earbuds.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 19, 2005 at 11:16 AM (CST)

1

I’m from S’pore as well.  From what I’ve seen, minis are so popular. I think nano will really take the lead though.  Still, I do see Creative stuff sometimes.  But with new ipods (esp. nano) it will really become Apple land.  I want to see a merlion with ipod earphones! LOLOLOLOL

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 19, 2005 at 3:11 PM (CST)

1

Well i’m not from singapore, and it’s a misnomer to call it a city of the future when everything about its government says middle age Europe.

Spit in the street = caning

Swear = caning

Pass wind = caning

If that’s the “future” I don’t want it.

You may be impressed by the cleanliness, civil rigidity and nanny government, but equally many are revolted.

I hope this isn’t censored because it wasn’t a troll, advertising, personal attack or objectionable. It was an observation.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 19, 2005 at 9:37 PM (CST)

1

hey 1Dude1, sure, there are many fines in Singapore, you get fined for spitting, fined for littering etc, and no, and whoever told you that you get caned for anything has been lying to you, but if you want a future where people spit and litter freely, now that’s what I call middle age Europe.

No offence here, but you need to observe more and maybe weigh the pros and cons for a sec before you say things like that. Not a personal attack, just letting you know my point of view. I’m not born in Singapore, but after all these years here, and comparison from different countries I lived in before, I believe Singapore has the best government out there, and I am for the laws in place here. My point is that before you talk about something negative about any country, please check your facts and experience it here before you talk about it.

Anyway, to add on to Nezo, shuffles are actually very common in Singapore now, because of it’s price, more so with students. Personally, I don’t think Apple needs to have huge advertising campaigns cos the people here really do most of the advertising themselves.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 19, 2005 at 10:13 PM (CST)

1

I’m from Singapore but I don’t recall seeing a public shows of caning for vandalism. If you consider newspaper reports of caning for respective crimes, sure. But please, iLounge.com, get your facts straightened before posting your reports online because you have tons of readers out there who may not have visited Singapore, for example, 1Dude1, who thinks that any socially-rejected behaviors are targeted for caning!

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 19, 2005 at 11:18 PM (CST)

1

We need an iTunes Music Store in Singapore.

I still have 12Gb of space available on my iPod.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 12:17 AM (CST)

1

I am from Singapore and owns a ipod 5G. Definitely on the street when I travel around in Singapore, you will see those obvious white pair of ipod headphones.. maybe the writer of this article seldom travels on the mass transit system here?

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 1:48 AM (CST)

1

1Dude1, you a Singapore hater? I’m sorry but you’re wrong on all three counts. You don’t get caned for doing all those things. You obviously observe pretty badly. This is just an article concerning the iPod situation here in Singapore, what’s with all these irrelevant comments? We may have somewhat stricter laws than other places do, but we don’t have school shootings.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 3:06 AM (CST)

1

Deep3lue: The caning reference was to Michael Fay, famously caned for vandalizing cars. The execution of drug traffickers thing is all over the place - it happened most recently at the beginning of this month (Van Nguyen) and is noted prominently on all travel documents for foreigners entering the country. Unfortunately, we can’t be responsible for readers who read things that aren’t written or have poor senses of humor. For what it’s worth, as should have been evident at the start of this article, we are not decrying these laws at all, though other people are free to have their own opinions.

AhBear: We said we saw gobs of iPods around Singapore, but didn’t see Creative Zens. As of today, however, we did see one Zen in public - a flash-based one, worn around someone’s neck. There is a lot of Zen advertising here, though, both at stores and in some subways (Orchard Road’s is particularly impressive).

And yes, the mini is definitely the most common iPod we’ve seen on the streets, by observation. A few stores seem to have limited stock of them, too.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 3:12 AM (CST)

1

How long ago was this report done anyway? Club 21 launched what is (was?) Asia’s largest Apple store, ishop, and local Apple Centre @ Orchard moved into a bigger premise as well, both not more than a month ago. Maybe this report would have been more complete if both shops were visited.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 4:07 AM (CST)

1

I don’t ‘hate’.

The only reason I brought up the caning thing is because it was raised in the review.

I’ve been to Singapore and my sister lives there. Again, it was just my p.o.v.

Strict (barbarous) laws don’t lead to crime removal. As you said Nezo, school shootings happen in the USA, and they still execute people (just like Singapore).

My comment was more aimed at Jeremy Horwitz who seemed to think that the end (clean streets) can be justified by any means (very strict laws with a nanny government).

Singapore isn’t perfect and neither is any other country. He seemed to think Singapore was a future utopia - thanks to the Government. I pulled him up on it.

:)

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 4:42 AM (CST)

1

1dude1: No, you just read too much into commentary that didn’t say what you think it said. It looks like you missed the words “better parts of” in the first paragraph.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 7:46 AM (CST)

1

Hey, i am going to visit the singapore airport shortly, and i was hoping of picking up an ipod there. Do they sell them in the airport? and how much should i expect to pay for it there?

Ipods here are very rare and very expensive, so i was hoping that when i pass by the airport in singapore i can pick one up for cheaper. i am heading off to malaysia where its also expensive to get an ipod, so the singapore airport is my only choice. Any insight?

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 7:59 AM (CST)

1

hey

ipods are really everywhere in singapore. i’d say they are one of the most common players with zen micros coming in second. oh and I see that ilounge visited many of the small retail shops selling ipods. thats good but its really the at the authorised applecentre shops that you can see how marketing is done for the ipod. the setup and layouts of the displays in the apple shops are top-notch. they are always packed with people. yeah and as someone said we have the biggest apple centre in Asia

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 10:28 AM (CST)

1

Jeremy: Michael Fay’s caning was just an elaborated report blown up by the media in the U.S. that suggested that foreigners living in Singapore should be treated above the Singaporean law even though they have committed a crime (I also remembered that Michael also committed some vandalising crimes when he went back home to U.S.).

Now, your statement of “public canings of vandals” seemlingly suggested that criminals are canned publicly which, obviously, isn’t the case.

Other than that, this is a well written report. And I’m grateful that you have choosen to write on and visit Singapore. I hope my comments do not anger you. I just want to clarify matters that’s all. Thanks for this site. iLounge is (one of) the greatest independent iPod websites that I truly enjoy!

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 12:14 PM (CST)

1

Another Singaporean here. If one were to throw a stone, it’d hit at least 5 iPod users on route. I’d go so far as to say that the ubiquitous iPod’s is well represented in this islandstate. I’ve been a user since December 2001; having eagerly anticipating its availibility when Apple announced the 1st gen iPod with that quirky ‘dancing-to-Propellerheads middleeastern looking guy’ TV advertisement. To note: I had a couple of people on the streets ask me what type of phone it was! I’m sure Jonathan Ives would have approved! Well it’s 4 years on and the rest as they say is history.

As for Singapore, sure the government here doesn’t subscribe to the same model of western liberalism but Singapore (and Asia) has her own geopolitical specificity and histories which require a different model of governing. I don’t necessarily agree with all the policies and laws but the key points to consider are that it’s safe and relatively comfortable with a sound government to maintain it.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 10:06 PM (CST)

1

Tarek: Sure you can purchase an iPod at the airport. You should expect to pay the listed price which you can find on http://www.apple.com/singaporestore . You might also want to check with the sales staff about tax rebates, depending on whether you’re in transit or otherwise…

Hope this helps.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 10:49 PM (CST)

1

We badly need a iTMS. Come on Apple.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 20, 2005 at 11:56 PM (CST)

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