In a week from now, Apple will unveil its highly-anticipated 2018 iPhone line-up. Millions and millions and millions of eyeballs would be glued to the company’s September 12 launch event, which will see the culmination of months of leaks and rumours surrounding its upcoming products.
Each year, Apple touts its new iPhones as being the ‘best iPhone ever,’ talking about how much faster the SoC is, how amazing the cameras are, and things like that. As each iPhone launch gets done with, the previous iPhones get relegated to the ‘older’ category.
The world’s enthusiasm about the newest iPhones is understandable, and the response they receive each year is intriguing. The Indian internet’s response to the iPhones each year, however, shows an interesting trend.
Online search trends over the last two years show that previous generation (or ‘older’) iPhones are more popular than the newest kid(s) on the block. Average interest in 2016’s iPhone 7 is revealed to be more than twice than its successor, last year’s iPhone 8.
Analyzing Google search trends in India over the past five years reveals something even more interesting. It shows that the four-generation old iPhone 6, which came out in 2014, has been more popular than newer models. It’s followed by iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 (in that order), with the top-of-the-line iPhone X being the second-least popular in the country, with 2016’s iPhone SE coming in last. This is something corroborated by the average user interest over time. So, what’s going on here?
Well, if you see closely, you’ll see a simple pattern. The more-expensive an iPhone model is, the less-interested people in India are in it. And since the newer iPhones are always dearer than the older models, it’s easy to see why the four-year old iPhone 6 continues to dwarf its newer siblings in popularity, at least as far as India is concerned.
There’s no denying the fact that iPhones (and other Apple products too) are extremely popular in the country. However, the Indian smartphone market is a volume-driven one. Except for a handful of people who understand the value of different components (e.g. user experience, build quality, and software support) that make premium smartphones (like iPhones) have the sky-high prices that they do, majority of users want devices that offer more value for money. This is why brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus rule the roost here.
Pricing has always been Apple’s nemesis in India, even though the company’s products have never been known to be ‘affordable’. Then there are custom duties and import taxes, which blow up the prices of iPhones even further. The iPhone SE is currently the most-affordable iPhone one can buy in India, but even it has, and continues to struggle, because its 4-inch screen is barely usable by today’s standards. Then of course, there’s the fact that you can get much more powerful (Android) smartphones at the same price.
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A large fraction of people who covet iPhones can’t (or don’t want to) spend the kind of money that the latest models (case in point being Apple iPhone X, which costs a staggering Rs 1 lakh, for the top-end variant) expect them to shell out. For these buyers, previous-generation (or ‘older’) iPhones are the only way to have a smartphone with that seemingly-enviable half-bitten fruit logo plastered on its back.
Now, Apple have never been better. Last month, they became the first publicly-traded company to have its market value reach $1 trillion. But even with all of that, Apple can’t afford to ignore India (for long), the fastest-growing smartphone market in the world. Perhaps this is why the Cupertino-based technology major is expected to launch an ‘affordable’ iPhone model at its upcoming launch event. How ‘affordable’ this new iPhone is, and whether it’ll be able to turn Apple’s fortunes in India, is something only time will tell.
For now, all we can do is count down to September 12 and prepare to marvel over Apple’s new iPhones, which will surely be the ‘best that they’ll have ever made’.