Buying an iPhone 6 in 2018 may not seem like a sensible decision, but Apple is making sure the smartphone stays relevant with the latest iOS 12 update. In fact, even the five-year-old iPhone 5S is compatible with the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. It almost seems like Apple’s WWDC 2018 announcement that iOS 12 would be available for older devices, giving it the widest base for an iOS version ever, too was aimed primarily at the Indian market.
“This move by Apple is aimed at giving the latest and as far as possible consistent experience to the majority of iPhone users, irrespective of the device age,” Navkendar Singh, Head – Mobile Devices Research: India & South Asia, IDC India, told indianexpress.com over an email. “Apple enjoys a huge aspirational appeal in India market where consumers aspire to own an iPhone. But not necessarily a new model or new iPhone, since the pricing of the new Apple devices is such that it is out of reach of most Indian consumers, in a market where more than 80 per cent of the smartphones sold are below $80,” said Navkendar.
India remains one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), India recorded total smartphone shipments of 124 million units in 2017, with an annual growth of 14 per cent over the year before. Apple is still a niche player with a minuscule market share, but the company has said in the past that it sees India as a market for long-term growth.
To achieve the growth, Apple has a different strategy altogether. Instead of selling ‘Made for India’ smartphones unlike the competition, Apple is focused on old generation models like the iPhone 6 and iPhone SE. Take the case of the iPhone 6 which was announced in 2014. Sure, it may not be as fast as the iPhone 8 Plus or the iPhone X, but is still an attractive buy at Rs 23,999. Even the iPhone SE, which is essentially an iPhone 6s in a compact body, is not a bad option for Rs 17,999.
Though both these above-mentioned phones may seem dated in 2018, what is important to note that Apple continues to support them through regular software updates. During its WWDC developer conference, Apple spent a lot of time proving that iOS 12 is all about performance and optimisation. Apps launch 40 per cent faster, the keyboard comes up 50 per cent faster and opening the camera is 70 per cent faster. It is interesting to note that Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi talked about iOS 12 on the iPhone 6 Plus, rather than on the iPhone X. This is another attempt from Apple to woo buyers in developing markets like India who often choose old-generation iPhones like the iPhone 6 due to their affordable prices.
In Navkendar’s opinion, the reason Apple was keen to push the iOS 12 update on old devices is also because there’s a huge demand for iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone SE in the refurbished and resell market. “Past-generation iPhone models like 5S, 6 and SE have a huge refurbished and resell market, which brings the ownership cost down for new buyers of these old iPhone models. As a result of reselling of old iPhone models (by refurbishing or as is) there is a large base of iPhone users in India for these old devices, who hold on to the device for long because of the brand,” he explained.
The analyst believes the rationale behind giving iOS 12 on all iPhones is to highlight Google’s failure to tackle the issue of Android fragmentation. Unlike with iOS where 81 per cent of users have updated to iOS 11, only 6 per cent of Android users are currently on the last version which was released toward the end of 2017. The fact that the five-year-old iPhone 5S can run iOS 12 and the latest Samsung Galaxy S9 is yet to be updated to Android 8.1 Oreo, tells us a lot about how deep-rooted the problem of Android fragmentation is.
“Despite the launch of new Android versions, millions of smartphones still keep running on older versions because OEMs/Brands have stopped support for that model or it takes a lot of time for them to roll out their own OS versions based on latest Android version. This doesn’t help Google’s objective of giving great Android experience to the users and use latest apps, services by Google,” he added.