iPhone SE gets lukewarm response in India on its launch


Apple’s iPhone SE may have already flopped in India. The Friday launch of the company’s latest device had the weakest demand for a new iPhone on day one, with barely 2,000 units made available in cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, the company’s leading trade partners said.

With poor pre-bookings, distributors rolled out cashback offers on credit card purchases from the very first day.

Demand for the iPhone SE is poor because of the steep pricing in India and its four-inch screen, which has little acceptance in India, four senior trade executives said. The device in India costs Rs 39,000 for the 16 GB model and Rs 49,000 for the 64 GB model, 40% more expensive than in the US.

“Both the consumer and media hype, which usually happen around a new iPhone, was completely missing for the iPhone SE in India. Hence, Apple has got less stock to build up the buzz and will also run promotion schemes to make the model affordable,” a senior trade partner said.

Tepid demand for iPhone SE may allow Samsung Electronics to race past Apple and lead the premium smartphone segment in the current quarter. The South Korean company sold over 60,000models of its latest S7 device within a month of launch in India.

All retailers still had adequate stocks of the new iPhone for sale in the evening, unlike previous launches when the devices would be snapped up in a few hours.

Pre-bookings in exclusive Apple stores were 5-10% of the level during the previous few launches. Apple, too, did not host any launch event in its stores, the way it usually does.

However, Apple will soon start consumer promotion for iPhoneSE such as a buyback scheme, which is unprecedented for a new iPhone, they said. This will be rolled out beyond Apple exclusive outlets to multi-brand stores.

According to trade estimates, 1,700-1,800 units of the iPhone SE were despatched to India for the first phase and distributors have promised additional stocks come next week for a national rollout.

A senior trade partner said consumers who want a 4-inch iPhone prefer the older iPhone 5s, which is now available for less than Rs 20,000 online. Others are opting for the 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch iPhone 6s and 6 models. The iPhone 6 16GB model currently sells online for about Rs 38,000, while the iPhone 6s 16GB is available for about Rs 45,000.

The lukewarm response is because the device is targeted at a very niche category of users in the country, said Tarun Pathak, a senior analyst at Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Technology Market Research.

“The phone is perceived to be for emerging markets but in reality it is not. End users are comparing it with iPhone 5S and finding the price differential too high,” Pathak said.

Nielsen India region MD Prashant Singh said the market for smaller screen sizes is steadily declining. “Even the value-conscious Indian consumer is going for cheaper phones but with a bigger screen,” he said.

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