Apple has “revived” the production of iPhone 4 handsets in India, Indonesia and Brazil in a bid to claw back lost ground on Samsung and grab an extra slice of the mid-market in these fast growing regions.
Three senior execs “with direct knowledge of the company’s plan” told India’s Economic Times that Apple’s management on the sub-continent persuaded Cupertino to effectively start producing more affordable phones, beginning at the Rs20,000 (£200) price point.
The report claimed Apple has “phased out” the iPhone 4 in all markets since the launch of the iPhone 5S and 5C in October. Apple still offers the 4S as a budget model in some nations, but the report suggests the plain old 4 hitting the stores in India next week will have been manufactured in January 2014.
Around 50-60,000 handsets have been shipped to the sub-continent as part of this new batch, it added.
If it’s true, the report would seem to indicate a tacit admission by Apple that the iPhone 5C didn't work in emerging markets.
It seems the device was just too expensive for wannabe fanbois in countries like India and Indonesia, despite being marketed as a more affordable, or at least non-premium, version.
However, the report assumes that iPhone 4 production was discontinued in the first place for these markets.
This is certainly not a given and difficult to prove given Apple's usual reticence to comment, although it’s believed to be usual Cupertino practice when a new model comes out.
IDC’s Melissa Chau told The Reg that “while [the iPhone 4] has phased out in some countries, it consistently was shipping to many emerging markets through 2013”.
She pointed out, though, that it could merely have been existing stocks that were shipping, and not newly built handsets, so the “revival” theory for India, Indonesia and Brazil could still be correct.
Whatever the truth, it’s obvious that Apple desperately wants a bigger slice of the pie in these fast-growing emerging markets.
It has already emerged that Apple plans to relaunch the discontinued entry-level 8GB iPhone 4 in India, introducing buyback and cashback schemes which could lower the price to around Rs.15,000 (less than £150).
The truth is that the 5C will not be a high volume model in India and Apple’s smartphone market share there for the first nine months of 2013 was under two per cent, according to Chau.
In Indonesia, IDC stats put Apple’s market share at under four per cent for the first three quarters of 2013, with the iPhone 4 – at less than half the price – clearly outperforming the 5.
“Apple is facing some pretty unique challenges in Indonesia around its products, both in smartphones and tablets, where it has not yet gotten government approval to ship new models like the 5S, 5C and any iPad newer than the iPad 2,” Chau told El Reg.
“However, it is still able to bring in models that have already been approved, which for smartphones included the 4, 4s and 5. Given that it is still unclear when it will clear these regulatory hurdles, it makes sense that the 4 is still a key part of its portfolio there.”
Apple couldn't be reached for comment. ®