With 4G LTE networks slowly but steadily getting rolled out in India, consumers are already looking to future-proof their new purchases by buying compatible smartphones. And it looks like Apple already has a lead start in this segment of smartphones. During the fourth quarter of 2014, Apple had 45 percent market share of 4G LTE smartphones in India, followed by HTC at 19 percent and Samsung at 16 percent. Apple dominates the tablet space even more with a 70.6 percent market share of 4G LTE enabled tablets followed by Lenovo at 28.7, according to Cybermedia Research. Also Read - Airtel could switch entirely to LTE services in the near future, following Reliance Jio's lead
Mind you, these are still early days for 4G LTE devices in India and the landscape will change with the entrance of affordable sub-Rs 10,000 4G LTE smartphones from Micromax, Xiaomi, Lenovo and others. In their first month of shipping 4G Smartphones, Xiaomi and OnePlus garnered impressive market shares of 24 percent and 12 percent, respectively during December 2014, the report states. Also Read - Xiaomi may be planning to launch a new brand as POCOPHONE gets certified by the FCC
According to the report, the Indian 4G LTE enabled devices market stood at 1.06 million units, with 96 percent of them being smartphones, 3 percent tablets and just 1 percent data cards. Also Read - Permanent LTE exploit found directing users to malicious websites
Apple had a first mover advantage with the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, both of which supported TD-LTE in Band 40 that was favored by Indian carriers. With the price slash, the iPhone 5C became one of the favored 4G-enabled smartphone, though it would be over optimistic to believe that many buyers bought it for 4G LTE, considering the lack of networks.
“Till a few months ago we had Apple iPhone and a couple of other global brands offering 4G phones in the India market, but sales started to pick up with competitively priced devices being made available by brands like Xiaomi, OnePlus and Lenovo starting to ship LTE phones towards the end of CY 2014. Though LTE services are currently restricted to a handful of cities in India, the reason for sales of 4G devices picking up can be attributed to the fact that consumers who were looking to replace their Smartphones were ‘investing’ in future network-compliant phones,” said Faisal Kawoosa, Lead Analyst, CMR Telecoms Practice.
However, things are likely to change over the next few quarters. With some carriers now planning for FD-LTE in Band 3, it would be imperative for smartphones to have dual-mode support for two different bands and different technologies. Newer smartphones such as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G and YU Yureka support both the bands and technologies.
“Apple enjoyed the early mover advantage and thus led the space during the fourth quarter. With players like Samsung and HTC also shipping LTE devices the contribution of global brands to the overall India LTE device market stood at 83 percent, while the rest was contributed by Chinese brands. Micromax was the only India brand that shipped LTE devices during the fourth quarter, marking the entry of Indian brands into the LTE device space, albeit with a marginal share of 0.1 percent of shipments during 4Q CY 2014. The up-tick in 4G-enabled device shipments in India, especially smartphones, shows that it makes the right business proposition for other home-grown brands like Lava, Karbonn and Intex to foray into the LTE devices market,” said Vikrant Singh, Analyst, CMR Telecoms Practice.