Apple is a premium widely known trend setting company. In some markets Apple has a huge smartphone market share for example in United States (44%) and Australia (56%).
In India Apple has smartphone market share of only 2.87% with some sources even claiming it to be around 1%.
In contrast Android market share in India is above 90%.
Now before we start saying that Android has cheap phones in all price points (link opens in new tab) we have to know that India also has a huge population of rich, high tier middle class and ever increasing purchasing power of general middle class.
Also, it is not that iPhones are not popular on mouths. It is not that people have not heard of Apple or iPhone! Many people wish to have an iPhone. It is extremely popular and seen as a device of luxury and status among youth and people in general.
But it is the drawbacks of Apple / iPhones / iOS (many of which are region specific) that is hindering the growth of Apple in India.
Lets us look at these point wise.
1- No Partnership with Mobile Wallet / BHIM / Rupay.
In India mobile payments (mobile wallets from companies like Paytm, PhonePe, Mobikwik, Freecharge) are a huge hit.) In India Apple does not yet allow payments from these methods on App Store/iTunes Store. In China it accepts WeChat Pay.
On the other hand, Google has partnered with almost all mobile carriers and all mobile wallets and you can use these to pay on Play Store.
Another very important payment related reason is, Apple not yet accepting Rupay Cards as saved payment method for its App Store / iTunes Store. Homegrown Rupay card is the leading card network in India. It is so popular that in very little time (6 years) it has more market share than Visa and Mastercard combined.
Currently Rupay cards enjoy market share of more than 65%.
Recently (last quarter of 2018) Mastercard and Visa complained to US Government about Indian Government favouring Rupay. Personally I think it was childish. Mastercard and Visa were complaining to their leader who is on a spree to ban foreign countries’ products or levy huge taxes on these products. If USA can work for the betterment of its companies, why can’t other countries take similar steps for their companies. However the success of Rupay cards is because of their flexibility, understanding and partnering with 1,100 banks and other financial institutions. As of August 2018, more than 515 million Rupay cards have been issued. Visa and Mastercard also have significant market share and are successful but if we compare them with Rupay we can say that Rupay understood India better than them.
Rupay cards are now crossing Indian boundaries. Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Rupay payment platform for Singapore in May 2018. Soon the country of Bhutan will also allow Rupay cards to be used for electronic transactions.
2- Poor SIRI.
SIRI is not even 50% of what Google Assistant is in India. SIRI does not support any Indian language like Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu etc. It however has English (India) as language option — which better understands Indian English accents. However this too is not a perfect or even satisfactory experience as it simply does not understand even slightly complex place/person names. It also lacks features like movie timings, nearby shows, restaurants, proper direction and similar other features.
If we Google something on a browser or Google Assistant, Google shows a lot of different options.
For example, if you ask SIRI ‘Google Domino’s Pizza’ it just shows a list of websites on its dull SIRI screen (earlier it used to show in Safari browser which was better.) On the other hand, if we search the same on Google Assistant (or browser), Google automatically shows nearest Domino’s, the address, phone numbers, distance and other useful information in one command. It is extremely helpful.
Earlier SIRI used to show results in Safari whenever it was asked to ‘Google’ something. It was helpful. Apple removed this feature and now SIRI shows Google result on its own screen which is lack lustre. Click To Tweet
3- No Official Apple Store or Apple Service Centre.
Apple has no OFFICIAL APPLE STORE in India. Apple only has authorised resellers. Many times experience here isn’t premium that a customer pays for Apple products (which include/should include one year of top support.) Existence of authorised Apple resellers in small towns is a rarity.
In 2016, One Apple authorised service provider in New Delhi(CP) asked for ₹1500 for an under warranty service. Other Apple authorised service provider in Anand Vihar (12 kms from New Delhi) did for free. Click To Tweet
So no official store leads to irregularity. Since there are only Apple Resellers or Third Party Sellers many of them do not have some niche Apple products like Apple Watch, and AirPods for people to try in store before buying.
4- Inability to Download content from Internet easily (iOS Restrictions / Lack of File System)
Many (most) people in India especially students download movies / TV shows / music from various internet sources and keep / watch or share with friends. This is easily done on Android devices. There are small computer shops where you pay ₹20 (US$ 0.29) and can get five full hd movies on your memory card / android device. It isn’t that easy with iPhones.
5- No Dual Sim Card Capabilities.
The maximum number of users here have minimum two sim cards. It is easy to have a high end Samsung device with two sim cards than keep two phones.
Update- Latest iPhones have dual sim capabilities but they are limited to only two mobile carriers-Reliance Jio and Airtel.
Note- These iPhones do not take in two physical sim cards. (mobile network companies provide scannable code which is then imprinted on the inbuilt e-sim as the second sim.)
6- Premium Price not just for Products but also After Sale Services!
iPhones are not manufactured / assembled locally in India (except iPhone SE and now iPhone 6s). As a result huge tariffs are to be paid. This directly increases the price of Apple products.
iPhone X (64 GB) in USA costs $999. In India it costs ₹90000, that is $1288. Click To Tweet
On the other hand companies like Xiaomi have local manufacturing and assembly in India. This saves them from huge tariffs costs and thus they can keep the prices low and yet provide respectable specs.
Samsung on other hand has everything in India.
Recently in addition to all other manufacturing plants Samsung has opened the WORLD’S LARGEST MOBILE MANUFACTURING PLANT in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. Click To Tweet
It also plans to manufacture Galaxy Note 9 here.
Apart from product price , the cost of after sale services or repair services like screen replacement etc is too high.
Screen Replacement on iPhone X is equal to the price of One Plus 6 in India. Click To Tweet
Screen replacement for my 6s plus is Rs. 21000 which is the cost of new iPhone 6 in India.
7- Fierce Android Competitors.
Android companies like Samsung, One Plus, Oppo, Vivo, Mi etc are too fierce. They run online mega sales, flash sales, discounts, promotions, free screen replacement, ads by cricketers / Bollywood actors / YouTube Creators etc. It is huge. Also commission paid to offline mobile sellers by companies like Vivo, Oppo is lot more as compared to other companies. Thus mobile sellers push to sell phones from these brands more, to people who do not know much / care much about specs and performance. (Remember Apple has no OFFICIAL Apple Store!)
8- Competitors’ service centres everywhere!
There are Samsung service centres almost everywhere. Most other companies also have service centres scattered everywhere. Apple has limited service centres. In my home state (having population of 100 million and area 78 times that of New York City) there is just one Apple Service Centre; in the state’s capital. State capital is 7 hours (one way) from my place of residence. Now imagine submitting my iPhone or Mac one day, and then going to pick it some days later after repair!
This is the story for many Indian states! (However there are plenty service centres in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore etc.)
9- iPhones are not impressive on Paper!
iPhones and iOS are two great brothers. Click To Tweet
Both together work well. But in India people are specs checker. Android phones crush iPhones in this department. People will tend to buy a phone with powerful specs on paper like 4000 mAh battery, 6 GB RAM, 24 MP Front Camera etc. On paper iPhones lack this. So it results in some people choosing ‘great-on-paper’ Android devices over iPhones.
Apple is investing huge in India. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple has already said that India is the next big thing for Apple (as other big markets like North America and Europe have reached smartphone saturation level.)
Apple has partnered with home grown consumer electronics chain Croma to open Apple Stores in India (or at least have its signature wooden tables displaying its products in existing Croma Stores.)
Apple has kept prices of many of its paid apps and subscriptions less in India (as compared to United States.)
Regular Apple Music subscription in India costs $1.72 per month. Student Apple Music Subscription is just $0.86 per month. Click To Tweet
Same strategy is for many other third party apps.
On comparison scale Apple is far behind. Even if we talk ONLY about premium smartphone space, Apple has been dethroned. Now the king of premium segment is One Plus (and some sources saying Samsung). (Keep in mind that any phone above ₹35000 falls under premium segment in India.)
Apple is a rule making company. It is the trend setter with huge reserves of cash and potential. Once Apple gets seriously serious about Indian market; tweaks its existing products and services to suit Indian consumers, it would hardly take Apple 2-3 years to be a dominating player in Indian market.
There is a strong intuition that Apple is already planning for India and Indian sub-continent.
It is just a matter of time. Let us wait like we waited a year for the first iPhone to launch in India when other countries were getting the second version of iPhone.
First iPhone never launched in India. iPhone 3G was the first iPhone to be launched in India in August 2008. It was launched with Vodafone and Airtel. Click To Tweet
People reading this, you may contribute more points or contradict me. We can have a constructive debate. Thank You.
(Originally I published this article in skeleton form as a comment on a related YouTube Video.)
(Also for some points by ‘Apple’ it might mean ‘iPhone’.)
For some additional Apple issues in India please read my review and experience using AirPods.