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For first time, new iPhones get weak response in India

This is in stark contrast to a few years ago when demand would be much higher than supplies.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 03, 2018, 02.57 PM IST
Apple’s new iPhone XS and XS Max saw lower sales in the Indian market with several large retailers across the country saying they are for the first time left with little less than half the stock supplied to them after the first weekend sales.

This is in stark contrast to earlier years when demand would be much higher than supplies with Indian shoppers queuing up outside stores to grab the new iPhone. Apple had imported about a lakh units of the new iPhones, expanded availability to more stores and more markets to ensure high sales momentum at launch.

ET spoke to four large multibrand retail chains and three Apple Premium Resellers (APR) chains across the country with more than 1,500 stores among them. Senior executives in these chains said 40-45% of the stock was unsold as of Sunday night.


While demand was better than last year’s iPhone 8, which too had muted response in India, sales of iPhone XS and XS Max were about 55-60% compared to last year’s iPhone X in the first three days of the launch.

More than half the demand has been for the pricier iPhone XS Max 256 GB model in gold colour priced Rs 1,24,900, they said. Apple launched iPhone XS and XS Max last Friday priced at Rs 99,900 to Rs 1,44,900 against last year’s iPhone X launch price of Rs 89,000 to Rs 1.02 lakh.

Brian Bade, CEO at India’s largest consumer electronics retail chain Reliance Digital, said the retailer is still left with stock of the new iPhones. He, however, said some pre-booked customers are yet to collect the models probably postponing it to ride past the inauspicious period of Shradh.

“While sale of the new iPhones in the first weekend was certainly more than iPhone 8 of last year, it is still less than iPhone X. It’s a super-premium smartphone and will take some time to sell in India,” Bade said. He expects sales to pick up when Navratri starts in the second week of October.

Subhas Chandra, MD at Bengaluru-based Sangeetha Mobiles which operates 540 stores, said there has been no growth in same-store sales over last year for the new iPhones and there is still stock left. “However, in absolute terms, we sold more number of units of the new iPhones as compared to last year due to higher stock availability and since we also expanded the number of stores by adding 175 outlets,” he said.

Analysts said October-December shipment of iPhones in India can grow this year based on the older models unlike earlier years when the new launches would drive it.

Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research associate director Tarun Pathak said that demand for the new iPhones might be spread across the quarter in the middle of the festive season compared to Apple’s previous launches. “Having said that, Apple might still find it challenging to sell new iPhones beyond hard core Apple affluent users,” he said.

Apple India did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The price of the new iPhones increased after factoring in a 20% hike in custom duty for imported handsets and the rupee’s steep depreciation against dollar. The relatively lower priced iPhone XR will launch before Diwali and is comparable with last year’s iPhone 8.

A leading APR partner Aptronix director Meghna Singh said the response has been fantastic in its stores in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

However, the owner of another APR partner chain said it was left with unsold stocks and expects demand to pick up when Apple starts buyback schemes or drops prices and rolls out the software update to enable dual sim capabilities on the new iPhones expected in a month.

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