iPhone 6 Plus maybe just what phablet-loving Indians want

For a brand that doesn't take India all that seriously, Apple sold a pretty impressive number of phones in the country last year. And now, the plus-sized iPhone 6 may just give well-heeled Indians consumers what they've been craving.
Written by Rajiv Rao, Contributing Writer

How will the new iPhone 6 do in India?

If I were asked this question a year ago, 'not terribly well' would have been my response. The Indian market — the hottest in the world today — is flooded with every kind of mouth-watering smartphone you can think of, so no Indian in his or her right mind would fork out US$700 for an iPhone unless, of course, they were the kind who also drove an Audi, started their own dotcom or used lunches specifically to socialize and show off a brand new pair of Prada shoes.

The iPhone 6 (4.7 inches) and its 'Plus' variant (5.5 inches)

Also, while Android (and even Windows) phone manufacturers have begin churning out low-cost, high-value phones specifically for the Indian market, Apple gave the country the cold-shoulder, preferring instead to award the country's consumers with a hand-me-down Apple 4, a practice that it had initially test-driven in Indonesia. Pricy new phones and has-been models were not exactly the kind of things that were going to set the cash registers ringing for the company.

Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I read in this recent Economic Times report that Apple has flogged more than a million phones since October of last year (the beginning of its fiscal year), which is astonishing considering how expensive its phones are to the Indian public in general. What's even more amazing is that close to half a million of these were the 16GB 5S model, a phone that costs upwards of US$700. Keep in mind that Indians pay full price for their phones since subsidies from telcos are by-and-large non-existent. 

The next most popular brand was the 4S 8GB accounting for around 270,000 units followed by the iPhone 5C 16 GB which accounted for around 100,000 phones.

Apple's market share in the country may seem puny — just 2 percent according to this report, but when you look at share in terms of value, that stat climbs several notches to 5.5 percent, making it the sixth largest smartphone player in India (behind Motorola which, in an impressive feat, sold around a million units in five months).

Suddenly, its figures are not all that shabby.

So, coming back to the question at hand, which is the fate of the iPhone 6 in India: Suddenly, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 (and its outsized brother, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus), which according to reports will be unleashed on the Indian public on October 17 and smack dab in the middle of festival season) could very well see the most traction any iPhone ever has in India.

Obviously Indians are less reticent (and more cash-rich today) to spend big bucks on a brand that they've always coveted. More importantly, Indians have also cultivated a love affair with phone-cum-tablets whose screen sizes range from 5.5 to 6.99 inches, commonly referred to as 'phablets'. These in-between devices were a big reason that tablet shipments in India were hit hard in the early part of the year with as much as a 30 percent drop in unit sales.

With a 5.5-inch screen now available to free-spending Indians, the festival season soon approaching and a new sense of confidence in a new government that was recently voted in, the iPhone 6 Plus may just be the right phone at the right time for Apple in India.

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