Here’s why Apple is so excited about iPhone opportunities in India

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India iPhone sales
Apple is currently a bit-player, but it's poised to strike it big.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple is constantly talking up the importance of India as a growth market, and a new report from Kantar Wordpanel illustrates exactly why that is.

According to the report, smartphone penetration hit a 48 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2017. That’s considerably up from the 16 percent growth rate seen one year earlier. In a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, that’s a massive target market!

One reason for the massive growth in smartphones is the rapidly-expanding 4G infrastructure and low-cost 4G data services introduced by India telecom leader Reliance Jio, which has stimulated demand for 4G-capable devices.

Despite the massive market opportunity, however, Apple still remains a minority player in a market where Chinese vendors make up more than 50 percent of sales, and Samsung represents 27 percent of all smartphones sold. At present, Apple occupies only around 3 percent of smartphone sales in the country.

Things are looking up for Apple, though. During Apple’s most recent earnings call, Tim Cook noted that, “We set a new March quarter record for India where revenue grew by strong double digits. We continue to strengthen our local presence across the entire ecosystem and we’re very optimistic about our future in this remarkable country with its very large young and tech-savvy population, fast growing economy and improving 4G infrastructure.”

To help drive growth, Apple has recently teamed up with Reliance Jio to offer free 4G service for one year to buyers of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. It is also planning to manufacture iPhones in India to reduce some of the high import taxes it currently has to pay, which makes its handsets unaffordable.

What is ultimately most clear from Kantar’s figures is that there is still everything to play for. It notes that:

“Over the next 12 months, 51% of current mobile phone owners in India say they intend to upgrade their devices. For current smartphone owners, that number is 52%. Samsung is the top brand preferred in India at 26%, followed by Apple at 15%. Between 7% and 8% of consumers intend to purchase Vivo or Oppo products.”

If Apple plays its cards right — and especially if it can introduce brick-and-mortar Apple retail stores like it’s been trying to — it could be perfectly poised to capitalize on demand.

Source: Kantar Wordpanel