Even though premium segment player Apple has moved a notch up to the "super premium" category with the iPhone X, its bid to grab a bigger chunk of the Indian market won't be easy, with the popular Samsung Galaxy S8 firmly in place and the Galaxy Note 8 set for a massive landfall.
To be made available on November 3, iPhone X will cost Rs 89,000 (64GB) variant while the 256GB version will cost Rs 102,000.
In the January-June quarter of 2017, Apple sold 3,00,428 units of iPhone 7 and 2,06,292 units of iPhone 7 Plus. In the same period, Samsung sold 1,22,000 units of S8 and 1,40,000 S8 Plus, according to the data provided by Cybermedia Research.
Now, over 2.5 lakh people have registered to buy the Rs 67,900 Galaxy Note 8 device—also launched on September 12 in India—which would be available starting September 21.
"Although iPhone X is the real competition to Samsung, we must keep in mind that Samsung currently has two successful flagships with them—with Galaxy S8 (doing well) and Note 8 (just launched with huge pre-orders). This makes the super-premium end of smartphone market very interesting for the next two quarters or so," said Navkendar Singh, senior research manager at IDC India.
According to Singh, the high pricing of the iPhone X will ensure that only a very serious and real Apple fan will buy it.
"However, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, with a similar design—but premium build and lower pricing—will probably appeal to iPhone 6s/7 users who were waiting for an upgrade. These two models should be the volume drivers for Apple, with iPhone X acting as a flagship at the super-premium end," Singh explained.
When it comes to Chinese brands in India, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo now have a combined market share of 54 per cent in the second quarter this year, up from 51 per cent in the first quarter, says the "Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker" report by IDC.
Samsung continues to be India's top smartphone brand with 24 per cent market share. Apple, with its premium portfolio, has nearly three per cent market share by volume and 11 per cent share by value in the country.
According to Narinder Kumar, an analyst at Cybermedia Research, in terms of significant business contribution, shipments of iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 5S declined sequentially by 59 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively, in second quarter of 2017.
"Personally, I never see a Samsung versus iPhone competition. The iPhone community is primarily for iPhone and won't shift to another phone—and moving to Samsung means the big decision of coming out of the iOS ecosystem," said Faisal Kawoosa, principal analyst, telecom and ESDM, CMR.
For him, the battle in the premium segment is now between iPhone and Samsung premium models like the Note 8.
"The trend will continue to be so for now; iPhone fans will upgrade only to an iPhone, and those looking for a premium option within Android, will go for Samsung," he added.
Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Mobile Devices and Ecosystems, Counterpoint Research, expects initial sales to be high with the Apple user base upgrading to its new devices irrespective of pricing and specs.
"However, Apple will have its task to cut out to acquire Android users in the premium segment when both the S8 and Note 8 likely to give strong competition to the company in India," Pathak told IANS.
From the strategy point of view, he said, iPhone X is a good move from Apple, initiating a new design form factor that can be further leveraged in successive iterations.
iPhone X and iPhone 8 can co-exist and won't be a threat to one another.
"These models can definitely co-exist as we have seen that Apple has lately moved away from single new model per year to multiple models playing at multiple price points, which is really an attempt to drive volumes and gain more share," Singh noted.
iPhone X has some hugely incremental features compared to the present iPhones, like less-bezel, facial-recognition system, wireless charging, animoji, etc.
"That should excite the staunch iPhone base looking for an upgrade. This segment is not price-sensitive and I don't see price out of expectations range. So, iPhone X should be doing good numbers, though not of the volume of mass market models or brands," Kawoosa added.
One should also not forget that, though primarily a premium segment player, Apple is slowly opening up new avenues—like the Bengaluru-assembled iPhone SE (32GB) at Rs 26,000—to expand its presence in India, a price-sensitive market with a gigantic user base scouting for devices in the Rs 15,000-Rs 30,000 range.