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France Telecom CEO: iPhone too pricey for Europeans

Apple's iPhone sales are not exactly surging in Europe. The CEO of one of the region's largest wireless carriers says it's because the smartphones simply cost too much.

Apple's iPhone 5 CNET

There may be a reason why Android devices are more popular in Europe than Apple's iPhone: they're cheaper.

The CEO of one of Europe's largest wireless carriers said today that European customers are becoming increasingly more pennywise, which is putting a damper on sales of costlier mobile phones. Hence, this should sound as a warning call to Apple.

"Customers are more focused on price," France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard told Bloomberg. "Except for a few hundred thousand people who will buy the latest iPhone -- except for that category of people -- the majority of the market will be difficult."

Maybe it's the Eurozone crisis or maybe it's that Europeans are having second thoughts about throwing down a major wad of cash for a cell phone. Richard explained to Bloomberg that more consumers are seeking lower prices for wireless service and are also holding onto their old devices for longer periods of time -- even when they switch carriers.

"We are in a period of changing consumer behavior," Richard said. "There are fewer early adopters, and probably with the next release of the iPhone this will be evident. Selling a phone for $600 is getting more and more difficult."

According to data from research firm IDC in November, Android hoarded 75 percent of the world's smartphone market share, while Apple grabbed fewer than 15 percent. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech showed similar numbers in November, with Android continuing to make major market share gains across Europe, while iOS edged down slightly.

This may be one of the reasons why several market analysts are saying that Apple needs to launch a low-cost iPhone. They say that while the company is doing well in the U.S., a low-cost phone could boost earnings and market share in other regions, like Europe.

Apple may be listening. Rumor has it that the iPhone-maker is working on a bigger, thicker, cheaper, plastic smartphone that could hit stores as soon as next year. This type of device would purportedly be in addition to Apple's pricier aluminum iPhones.