India smartphone market shrinks by nearly half due to Coronavirus

The world’s second-largest phone market suffered a huge hit




The India smartphone market is the world’s second-largest. It has witnessed consistent growth for the last few years, despite a regional economic slowdown. However, the streak came to an end in the second quarter of 2020 when the country announced a strict lockdown to curb the spread of Coronavirus.

Analysis firm Canalys said the smartphone market plunged by 48 percent in the second quarter. The country entered a full-lockdown from March 22 and it lasted till the end of April.

A few regions that weren’t impacted opened up slowly in May. But e-commerce activity was zero during this period and manufacturing facilities remained shut.

Smartphone makers anticipated the drop since there was no open channel available for selling. All physical stores were shut, e-commerce movement was nil, and trade in the black market was insignificant. Phone makers urged the government to categorize smartphones as an essential commodity amid the lockdown.

Xiaomi continued to be the market leader in India with a 31 percent market share, followed by vivo at 21.3 percent.

Canalys stated that the pandemic has forced phone makers into a “diabolical situation.” They’ve had to deal with low supply in production and demand.

Chinese brands still lead despite negative sentiment

The report also noted that anti-China sentiment was unlikely to affect sales of Chinese phone makers. Alternatives from Apple, Google, and Nokia aren’t priced competitively, leaving users with no option but to go for a Chinese phone maker.

Interestingly, more than 70 percent of the India smartphone market is controlled by Chinese makers like Xiaomi, vivo, OPPO, realme, and OnePlus.

Companies are having a hard time keeping up with the demand despite the lifting of the national lockdown. Positive cases of Coronavirus have been found in OPPO’s factory, prompting a shut-down. Adding to this, logistics are another concern since all processes have inherently slowed down due to insufficient manpower or social distancing norms.


Apple is preparing to open its first stores in India

Based on new job listings



For one of the largest smartphone markets in the world, India is one of the rarer countries where Apple does not outright dominate. Undoubtedly, the company is trying to change that. Ongoing job listings in India are suggesting that Apple is ready to open its first brick-and-mortar store in the country.

First reported by Financial Times, Apple has posted job openings in India for several retail roles including for the iconic Genius Bar. Another clue even indicates that some spots have already been filled ahead of time. A few employees in the country have reportedly posted about their new jobs on LinkedIn.

Unfortunately, none of the job listings show how many stores are planned and where they will be. Narrowing things down by a bit, a few of the confirmed employees are from Mumbai and New Delhi. The report also does not indicate when the stores will open. However, since a few have already been hired, a grand opening might be coming soon.

Apple has a lot to gain by strengthening its foothold in India. The country is an important stronghold for smartphone companies. However, the company might find things harder as time goes by. The country recently dictated that brands must switch to USB-C if they want to sell their devices in India. All over the world, Apple remains the last stalwart against adopting the more universal standard.

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India to enforce USB-C on all phones by 2024

Smartphones and wearables affected



Last year, the European Union made a lot of waves by announcing the impending enforcement of USB-C across all devices sold in the region. Other countries, such as Brazil, joined in by pondering its own version of the same policy. Then, as 2022 wound to a definitive close, India, skipping a more deliberative phase, has announced a sweeping enforcement of USB-C coming in 2025.

In approximately two years’ time, most devices sold within India must use USB-C ports (via Business Standard). More specifically, Indian lawmakers have included smartphones and wearables as part of the new policy. Like policies in other countries, India’s policy revolves around the drive to reduce e-waste from devices.

Naturally, as is the case in other countries, Apple is the brand most affected by the ruling. While most Android-based smartphones already use USB-C across the board, Apple’s device still rely on the proprietary Lightning cable, severing a significant chunk of the populating from the more universal standard.

The country is nothing to shrug off, either. India is one of the largest smartphone markets in the world. Though Android is much more prevalent than Apple, India’s new policy is certainly a significant speed bump for the iPhone maker.

Though Apple has publicly protested against the new policies, the company has also confirmed that it will comply with the new rules. While it has a slightly lengthier timeframe in India, the brand has to comply in the European Union by the end of 2024.

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India might force Apple to adopt USB-C soon

Exploratory talks have started



It’s the world versus Apple. After years and years of proprietary hardware, Apple is finally facing a deluge of pressure to abandon the Lightning cable. The entire European Union have already decided to force device markers, particularly Apple, to adopt the universal standard, USB-C. Now, another country is joining in: India.

As reported by Mint, the Indian government has started holding exploratory talks with manufacturers to discuss the possibility of a common charging standard. While the talks aren’t decisive yet, it’s the first step towards legislation moving in favor of a standard.

Though the wording remains vague, a lot of pressure is on Apple. The iPhone maker is still one of the biggest opponents against adopting USB-C worldwide. Amid the company’s growing gallery of USB-C devices, the Lightning cable is still alive and well. A lot of other manufacturers have already moved on to the standard for its their ports.

Soon, the company might not have a choice. If a decisive law is passed, India will join the European Union and Brazil in potentially forcing Apple into the standard. It’s not an insignificant ally for the pro-USB-C camp, either. India is one of the biggest smartphone markets in the world.

Apple is unlikely to launch a USB-C iPhone series this year. The company is already expected to launch the next series in a few weeks’ time. If such a phone is coming, it might debut as soon as next year.

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