Apple Inc., the world’s largest smartphone maker, is having trouble selling iPhones in India, a market with 602 million active subscribers.
Apple, which will introduce a new iPhone version tomorrow, ships fewer handsets to the world’s second-largest mobile-phone market than it does to Norway. Nokia Oyj and Research In Motion Ltd. sell more devices in India, where smartphone shipments are forecast to grow almost 70 percent a year until 2015, helping mitigate their market-share losses in the U.S. and Europe.
Sales for the world’s biggest company by market value are hindered because Indian wireless carriers, which started third-generation networks this year, have yet to offer nationwide services fast enough to take advantage of iPhone features, said Gus Papageorgiou, an analyst at Scotia Capital Inc. in Toronto.
“Networks in India are just not conducive for Apple -- 3G networks aren’t quite where they are in Western Europe and North America,” he said. “RIM got the right product, the right timing, the right app.”
Apple shipped 62,043 iPhones to India in the quarter ending June 30, or fewer than to Norway, Belgium or Israel, according to estimates by Framingham, Massachusetts-based researcher IDC.
Apple dropped 0.6 percent to the equivalent of $381.08 in German trading as of 11:22 a.m. in Frankfurt.
Apple accounted for 2.6 percent of India’s smartphone shipments in the quarter ended June 30, trailing RIM’s 15 percent, Samsung Electronics Co.’s 21 percent and Nokia’s 46 percent, IDC estimates.
“The iPhone only really works when you have Wi-Fi,” said Kshma Shah, a 25-year-old interior designer in Mumbai. “3G has barely started in India, and on 2G you just can’t have the same experience.”
The world’s largest maker of tablet computers also shipped about 21,150 iPads to India in the same period, or 0.2 percent of its global total, according to IDC.
RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger instant-messaging service is popular because it was one of the first, and it functions well on networks a generation behind the speeds offered in the U.S. and Europe, Papageorgiou said.
“Only a few of my friends have iPhones,” said Mahafareenn Sarkari, a 25-year-old dance instructor in Mumbai. “BlackBerry is where everybody is, so it made sense for me to be on it, too.”
RIM, which entered India in 2004, plans to extend its lead over Apple after expanding distribution to 80 cities from 15 starting last year, said Krishnadeep Baruah, director of marketing for Waterloo, Canada-based RIM in India.
“We want to ride this wave,” Baruah said. “This is really the time to expand into the emerging towns and cities.”
That contrasts with RIM’s struggles worldwide, with its stock falling 65 percent this year on the Nasdaq Stock Market. At least five RIM executives have left since March, and the company sold half as many PlayBook tablets in the second quarter as analysts had forecast on average.
Nokia has more than 200,000 outlets in India and offers 13 smartphone models, Vilsha Kapoor of New Delhi-based Six Degrees PR, hired by Nokia to handle public relations, said in an e-mail.
The Espoo, Finland-based company is seeking to reverse its global performance. Shares are down 45 percent this year, and it is eliminating at least 7,500 jobs as Apple takes global market share and Asian competitors push the price of smartphones below $100.
Smartphone shipments in India are poised to jump almost eightfold, or an average of 68 percent a year, to 81.5 million units by 2015, according to IDC.
Apple products aren’t as accessible in India because consumers can’t buy iPhones, iPads and iTunes songs from company stores or its website. Apple sells through licensed resellers, including a Reliance Industries Ltd. subsidiary and Tata Group’s Croma.
“Apple continues to invest in India as a growing market for the company,” Alan Hely, a London-based spokesman for Apple, said in an e-mailed response.
Steve Dowling, a Cupertino, California-based spokesman for Apple, declined to comment.
In China, Apple operates six stores, including its highest-grossing ones worldwide. Revenue in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong increased six times to $3.8 billion in the quarter ended June, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in July.
Apple may be relying more on word-of-mouth among India’s wealthy, said Harish Bijoor, who runs his own brand consulting firm in Bangalore.
“They don’t see a big enough market for their products to make it worthwhile,” Bijoor said. “They’ve barely done any advertising. It’s pathetic, really.”
Cost is also an issue in a country where the World Bank estimates that about 900 million people live on less than $2 a day.
The cheapest iPhone 4 costs $705 at Reliance’s iStore, while the cheapest iPad 2 sells for about $603. In Apple’s U.S. online store, the iPhone 4 starts at $199 with an AT&T Inc. contract and the iPad starts at $499.
BlackBerrys under $200 made up 40 percent of their shipments in India in the quarter ended June 30, said T.Z. Wong, an analyst for IDC.
“I don’t think Apple is a brand for the masses,” said Ajit Joshi, managing director of Croma, which also sells other brands besides Apple. “It’s a brand for the classes.”
The masses may be getting wealthier as India’s new five-year plan aims for 9 percent growth in gross domestic product. India last year joined the top dozen countries with the most millionaires, according to a report by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management in June.
Salaries in India also are set to rise the most in the Asia-Pacific region this year, according to an Aon Hewitt LLC survey released in March 8.
“It’s a brand-in-waiting,” said Viren Razdan, managing director of consulting firm Interbrand’s Mumbai office. “Apple is waiting for infrastructure and consumer maturity.”