Chinese smartphone makers are using a winning combination of low prices and practical design to dominate India’s fast-growing smartphone market, new market data shows. The rapid rise of vendors such as Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo comes at a time when Apple, which has struggled to grow sales over the past several quarters, is seeing its efforts on the subcontinent fall flat.
Xiaomi led the Indian market in the first quarter of 2019, shipping 9.5 million phones—up 4.3% from Q1 2018, according to research firm Canalys. That was good enough for a market-leading share of 31.4%.
Shipments from Korean vendor Samsung dipped 1.8% to 7.3 million. Guangdong, China-based Vivo, meanwhile, more than doubled its shipments, which totaled 4.5 million units.
China’s Oppo and Realme rounded out the top five, with Q1 shipments of 2.8 million and 1.3 million units respectively.
Meanwhile, Apple’s market share in India, which accounts for more than 10% of global demand, has fallen below 2%. Critics say the company has failed to produce a product that’s appropriate for the Indian market, where the typical smartphone sells for less than $250. Apple also has little presence in India’s highly decentralized retail sector, where most phones are sold through small, independently owned shops.
Battery life is also an issue. Many Indian phone users work in remote areas and lack access to charging stations. Recognizing this, Vivo added a massive 5,000 mAh battery to its new Vivo Y17 phone. That’s nearly double the size of the battery in newer iPhones, including iPhone X.
Investors are concerned that Apple’s failure to establish a beachhead in India could eventually hurt it globally. Some Chinese manufacturers are using profits gained in India to build a war chest that will allow them to expand aggressively into markets traditionally dominated by the iPhone and higher end Android hardware.