New Delhi: Apple may be a household name in India, but the popularity does not reflect in its market share in the country. In markets such as the US, Apple is the market leader. Besides, it was the third-largest smartphone vendor worldwide, with a market share of 10.1% for the April-June quarter, according to research firm IDC.
However, Apple has not been able to replicate the success in India, having less than 2% market share in the country, according to research firm Counterpoint.
One major reason for the poor performance is the huge difference between the price of iPhones and the average selling price in India of other smartphone brands, which is $200 (about ₹14,000).
To increase sales in India and other emerging markets, Apple has been coming up with low-cost iPhone variants since 2013, when it launched the iPhone 5C—$80 cheaper than the iPhone 5S. While the two had the same screen size and resolution, the 5C had a plastic body and ran on a 32-bit processor that was one generation older.
In 2016, Apple launched another low-cost smartphone—iPhone SE—that was later assembled in India, to keep costs down. While these models cost less than the premium versions, they were still far from affordable. The iPhone SE was launched in India at ₹39,999, at a time when companies such as OnePlus were offering premium products under ₹30,000.
Apple went back to the low-cost variant strategy again in 2018 with the iPhone XR, starting at ₹76,900 in India. The phone’s price was slashed to ₹52,900 and, subsequently, it was sold for ₹49,900.
Also, with the launch of every new iPhone, Apple slashes the prices of its older smartphones. So after the launch of the iPhone 11 series, the price of Apple iPhone 8 (64GB) and iPhone 8Plus (64GB) were reduced to ₹39,900 and ₹49,900, respectively. Older models such as Apple iPhone 7 (32GB) are now available for ₹29,900. Despite being priced lower, many users aren’t sold on these low-cost models as they miss out on some trendy features such as thin bezels and bigger screens, and new camera technology.
However, with the iPhone 11, Apple has shown far more aggressive intent. Unlike iPhone XR, which was launched at a higher price tag in India and had an inferior A11 Bionic processor, compared with iPhone XS that ran on A12 Bionic, the iPhone 11 will be available at ₹64,900 and will be powered by the same A13 Bionic processer as the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. What sets it apart from the top variants is the LCD screen and dual camera setup. “This time there is a bit of a difference as they are not creating a new product for India. It is a universal product and also flagship in many ways. The pricing is definitely aggressive probably looking at markets like India,” said Faisal Kawoosa, chief analyst and founder, techARC, a market intelligence firm.
Despite limited market share, Apple reported double-digit growth in India in its quarterly earnings report published in June 2019. But the question is whether the iPhone 11 will finally help Apple break into the list of top smartphone vendors in India. The answer is most likely no, as there are multiple options out there that offer a premium experience at half the price of the iPhone 11. Also, at current prices, the iPhone 11 is up against some of the top-end smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy S10 ( ₹61,900) and OnePlus 7 Pro ( ₹48,999).
“Even at this price, the iPhone 11 is for luxe category, which is above ₹50,000, and that market is still less than 1%. Considering that, we cannot expect anything substantially changing for Apple in India. This pricing will help it perform better, but Apple will still remain a niche player,” Kawoosa said.