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Why Apple sells just 2.5% of India's smartphones
Ten years after Apple began selling iPhones in India, perhaps the last great growth market for the iconic handset, the company is inching toward opening stores in the nation.
Setting up shop at busy malls in megacities could help with marketing, but it's unlikely to be enough for the company to make inroads in the world's second-largest smartphone market.
The U.S. tech giant has regularly reiterated its commitment to India, but there are two pressing issues that analysts and users say continue to cripple the reach of iPhones in the nation: The company's phones are too expensive for many Indian consumers, and Apple's core services such as Apple Maps and Siri don't work well locally.
A spokesman for Apple in India declined to offer comment on its services in the country, and the company declined an invitation for an interview about its efforts in Asia's third-largest economy.
Apple's iPhones remain an aspirational product for thrifty Indians, most of whom purchase smartphones priced below $150, according to market and research firms Counterpoint and IDC. Elsewhere, Apple sells its high-priced iPhones to customers through partnership with telecom operators that subsidise the cost of the product, but phones in India are sold sans tie-up deals with carriers.
So iPhones have remained beyond the budget for most Indians. The least expensive iPhone X model, for instance, is priced at 92,430 rupees ($1,450) in India, while the least costly iPhone 8 unit ships at Rs 66,120 ($1,040). The devices are so much more expensive in India because the local government imposes a heavy charge on imported electronics items.
The iPhone-maker, for its part, is trying to circumvent the customs duty by
manufacturing the iPhone SE model locally in India through a partnership with Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron. That's made the iPhone SE the least costly iPhone model from the recent generations in the country.
Samsung, and Chinese smartphone makers including Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo, many of which entered the Indian market in the last five years, are increasingly claiming dominance in the nation. Xiaomi and Samsung ship more handsets in India in under two months than Apple does in a year.
Samsung and the Chinese companies now control 80 percent of the smartphone market in India, while Apple settles for a meager 2.2 percent, Counterpoint and IDC said, citing data for the quarter that ended in September last year.
As of the quarter ending in December, Apple had 2.5 percent of India's overall smartphone market, according to Counterpoint.
More worrisome for Apple should be the models that are selling well in the nation. Even as the company doesn't list the resurrected iPhone 6 (now with 32GB storage as the base model) and iPhone 5s on its India website, both the handsets have been among the top selling iPhone models in India in the recent quarters.
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