As iPhone 15 looms over the horizon, decoding Apple’s India growth trajectory

Like clockwork, the second Tuesday in September will again provide anchor for an Apple keynote to usher in the next iPhone line-up. Likely to be the iPhone 15 series if the naming sequence continues, we can certainly expect status quo to be maintained in terms of how many phones the new portfolio will have, if not a surprise addition or two. Therefore, the quartet will include successors to the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Apple is selling more iPhones in India than ever before. (Reuters File Photo)
Apple is selling more iPhones in India than ever before. (Reuters File Photo)

While new iPhones are unmistakably exciting, for the India market, there is a strong foundation still being put together. One, where numbers mark a positive trajectory for phones that till not too recently were considered too expensive for the perceived value conscious Indian smartphone buyer. Estimates are bullish about the prospects of the iPhone 15 series too in India.

You wouldn’t expect anything less, in a year which saw Apple CEO Tim Cook launch the tech giant’s first set of exclusive retail stores in India. Apple is also selling more iPhones in India than ever before, and has set about to deliver on the government’s target of 25% of all iPhones in the world to be manufactured in India.

Cyber Media Research, in numbers shared with HT, estimates a 25% year-on-year growth for iPhone 15 shipments, compared with the iPhone 14 series after it was launched in the same quarter last year.

“With the iPhone 15 series, Apple is poised to maintain market momentum. However, this growth hinges on Apple’s ability to effectively manage any potential production challenges, and consequent shipment delays associated with its iPhone 15 line-up, including its ‘Pro’ models,” Prabhu Ram, who heads the Industry Intelligence Group at CyberMedia Research, tells HT.

A lot of this momentum comes from domestic manufacturing, something Apple and its partners Foxconn, Pegatron and Wistron (to be acquired by the Tata Group) have invested in significantly. In 2020, as the push for Make in India initiative gathered pace, Apple manufactured around 1% of all iPhones globally, in India. That number is expected to stabilise at 6% by the end of 2023.

Indians are also spending more on smartphones, something that has helped Apple, alongside Android phone makers such as Samsung and OnePlus, who figure in the flagship phone space. This change in buying trend comes even as the overall market is indicative of sluggish trends.

In Q2 2023, research firm TechInsights indicates Apple saw a 50% increase in shipments year-on-year.

“India became the 5th largest market for Apple in Q2 2023. We expect iPhone average selling price to increase further in Q3 and Q4 2023 driven by iPhone 15 Pro models that are expected to be more expensive than predecessors,” points out Abhilash Kumar, Industry Analyst for Wireless Smartphone Strategies, at TechInsights.

Some of the factors that may make some of the iPhone 15 series phones comparatively more expensive at launch, may include an expected switch to the low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) display technology and the use of Titanium in the frame, at least on the ‘Pro’ phones.

According to IDC, or International Data Corporation, 64 million smartphones were shipped in India in the first half of 2023, a decline of 10% compared with H1 2022. Specifically, in Q2 2023, the 34 million smartphones shipped represent a 10% increase over Q1 2023, but that is still decline of 3% compared with Q2 2022.

“Consumers are opting for premium offerings, driven by easy and affordable financing options. We expect this growth momentum to continue in the upcoming months in 2023,” says Upasana Joshi, research manager, Client Devices at IDC India. The average selling price of a smartphone in India is now $241 (around 19,930), a 13% increase year-on-year.

Apple’s market share has also increased significantly. At the end of Q2 2023, Apple registered a 61.1% growth year-on-year, which now gives it around 5.5% share of India’s smartphone market. This is also the quarter in which Vivo (16%) overtook Samsung (15.7%) to take the lead of the market share.

“iPhones will garner 7% market share in the Android-dominated India smartphone market in 2023,” predicts CMR’s Prabhu Ram. The pricing of previous generation iPhones once iPhone 15 is released will be crucial. As a trend, significant sales are generated for a generation-older iPhone series. For instance, alongside the iPhone 14 series, some models of iPhone 13, iPhone 12, as well as iPhone SE, continued to remain on sale at more affordable price points.

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