We have every reason to be excited about the iPhone SE, the new phone expected to be launched at the Apple event on March 21. Despite the buzz they create, Apple iPhones are still considered top-end in India, something every smartphone user who doesn’t own one aspires to. But Apple might just change that with the iPhone SE, or the iPhone 5SE as some are calling it.
Most of the speculation about the phone so far has been centered around the physical attributes — 4-inch screen, Touch ID, rounded edges and so on. These are crucial because there are still a lot of power users who yearn for a smaller phone. Not everyone needs the 5-inch screen or can actually handle it. But of late smaller phones have also been less powerful with smaller batteries too. And this is a considerably large market Apple can tap into with a smaller phone that has the same attributes as its flagships.
But the larger play could be price, and this is more wishful thinking. I am still not convinced Apple will put it in the lower price band. However, there is still an opportunity and some sound reasoning. For one, Apple might not be able to sustain big numbers from its growth market China. But India still has a lot of space to grow, though Apple is not really relevant in the volume budget segment here.
Even a $400 phone (let’s imagine it will be priced around Rs 30,000 in India) could get a lot of mid-range buyers to stretch themselves to buy an Apple, which offers better brand and resale value and than any Chinese phone. Let us not forget that the iPhone 5c managed to put the iPhone in a lot of new hands in a market like India.
Apple has already applied for permission to sell refurbished phones in India. This is will give it access to a lower price bracket in India. But I am not sure old phones will be as welcome in India as other markets. This is where a new phone, ideally around Apple’s price for a two-year-old product will really make an impact. Plus, as someone who first bought an iPhone that was two years old, I think the urge to move to the latest device will strong enough.
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Apple, which has set up new offices and has a larger local team now, could be winding up to do a China in India. Despite the presence of large local players and a very complex market, Apple has been able to command the third position with a 13.1 percent market share, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
With a bit of resolve and a phone that has a more affordable price tag, Apple could just recreate this success in India.