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iPhone sales in India stagnant or thriving, depending on who you ask

David Price | July 22, 2013
Analysts dispute Apple's success in vital, growing Indian smartphone market

Rival analysts are disputing Apple's iPhone sales figures in India, a vital growing smartphone market where Apple has been running a marketing blitz in recent months.

IDC — a research company owned by IDG  — claimed that after the initial flurry of iPhone sales that resulted from Apple's clever range of promotions, discounts and instalment payment plans, iPhone sales have slipped back. According to IDC's figures, Apple sold just 120,000 iPhones between January and March this year, down from 230,000 between October and December.

Yet one stock analysis site has disputed IDC's figures as "impossible" and "grossly incorrect", arguing that based on Strategy Analytics' estimates of smartphone sales in India (roughly 10 million in the first quarter of 2013) and IDC's calculation of Apple's market share in the country (2.1 percent, down from 4.7 percent), iPhone sales should be almost double what has been reported: 210,000.

Jay Somaney, the writer of the article, says he's travelled around India talking to shop managers and customers, and that these conversations suggest that Apple is on the up; some employees, he says, report that Apple has been reaching as high as 15 percent of smartphone sales. He also points out that Apple is increasing its number of exclusive retail resellers, which would make no sense if the products are struggling to sell.

Indian iPhone sales

Apple's Indian iPhone push
Apple recently began offering India consumers EMI (equal monthly instalments) schemes on new iPhones, so that budget-minded buyers can spread the cost of their new handset across several months. It's interest-free, which represents an effective discount of "4 to 9 percent", according to market analysts.

Apple also offered a cash discount of 18 percent on the iPhone 4, and began a scheme of trade-in rebates in May. The combination of these various deals makes older iPhone models affordable to many - a fact that has been rammed home by an aggressive advertising compaign.

Developing markets such as India, China and Brazil are going to be crucial for technology companies across the next decade. As consumer spending power increases in these nations, luxury devices will be come into the reach of ordinary people, who are likely to move from basic feature phones (which currently dominate the Indian market, for example) to smartphones.

Many market watchers think Apple should launch a budget iPhone for these markets - potentially an iPhone 5S, to sit alongside a top-end iPhone 6 — but the company has thus far contented itself with pushing older iPhones instead.


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