Nearly a year after ending direct sales of the iPhone 6 and SE in most countries, Apple is reportedly phasing out its least expensive models in India, raising the entry price of its flagship product line in a large but notoriously price-conscious market. The Economic Times suggests that the change is part of a strategy shift to focus on “driving value” rather than “chasing volumes” in the market, where iPhone sales have historically been weak.
The phase-out is said to impact four different models — the iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and somewhat confusingly, the iPhone 6S Plus — while leaving the standard-sized iPhone 6S available at a price point of 29,500 Indian rupees ($431), well above the SE’s 21,000- to 22,000-rupee price ($307-$321). Consequently, the company will treat the iPhone 6S as its entry-level model within the country, and has cut off supplies of the other devices, allowing resellers to close out their remaining stocks.
Superficially, the change would appear to be a price shock for Indian consumers, who might be expected to pay an over $100 additional price premium for the iPhone 6S compared with other options. But the annual iPhone lineup refresh is now less than two months away, and Apple historically pushes old models down in price or out of the lineup. Since the company historically maintains one to two months of inventory in the sales channel, some “discontinued” phones will likely continue to be available at resellers, as Apple prepares to further discount the iPhone 6S and 7 in September.
Removing the older models from the lineup will result in assembly line changes in India, as the country’s factories had been tasked with continuing to build devices that Apple had discontinued elsewhere in the world. The factories are now expected to expand production of other models, potentially to offset reduced production in China due to ongoing U.S.-Chinese trade issues.
While Indian sales of the iPhone have been disappointing in recent years, leading to reshufflings of local executives and revisions of sales plans and targets, Apple is reportedly working to improve its position within the country. iOS 13 will add support for 22 Indian languages, as well as Siri support for speaking and understanding Indian English, and stronger localized Maps functionality. The company is also expected to expand popular trade-in and cash back deals to make higher-end iPhones more affordable for Indian consumers.