“Oh, its Apple, they’ll launch phones once a year and a few iPads and Macs and that’s it”. If you subscribed to this theory, 2020 must have been a pleasant surprise for you. This has been, if my memory serves me well, the most active year for Apple as far as the product launches go. And the most exciting. And the most vocal too. Five new iPhones, three iPad refreshes, MacBook Pro 13 and the MacBook Air getting two updates in the year, the gorgeous iMac 27-inch, two family lines of the Apple Watch, the HomePod Mini and well, the super expensive and super attractive AirPods Max headphones. There’s a lot that happened on the hardware front, but equally, this year also saw the biggest update iOS has seen in years with iOS 14 and the Macs have seen in years, with the macOS Big Sur. The blurring of lines between the iPads and the Macs continues subtly, and this year, the iPad Air and indeed the iPhone 12 was much closer to the “Pro” options, in terms of the experience and performance. For India, there was much more in store, beyond the exciting gadgets.
It was in H2 2020 that India finally joined the list of 37 other countries, as the virtual doors opened for the Apple India Online Store. This was just ahead of the Diwali festive shopping season. India has joined the list that includes the US and UK. For the first time in India, Apple will be able to take charge of what it covets the most—the experience. No longer does it have to rely on distributors, retailers and ecommerce platforms for online sales, which means it can dictate the entire experience for the customer, right from choosing a product, to placing the order, the delivery as well as the post-purchase setup and support. The standardization of experience will mean a customer buying something on the Apple online store in the UK will get the same sort of experience as Apple India online store users.
India focus didn’t just mean launching an online store. For Apple, the localizations went deeper. There is the Shopping Assistance option that allows customers to connect with Apple Specialists and communicate with them in English and Hindi. These specialists will be able to help with support and pre-purchase guidance. Support for more Indian languages is being added. Apple also has gifting options as well as the ability to engrave text or emojis on Apple AirPods, Apple iPad and the Apple Pencil. Engraving will be available in English as well as 7 Indian languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu for the Apple AirPods, and English for the Apple iPad and Apple Pencil.
This year also proved to be big for Apple’s Make in India push. Mind you, Apple has been manufacturing the iPhone SE (first generation), iPhone 6s series, the iPhone 7 series and the iPhone XR, and also added the iPhone 11 to list earlier this year. It was reported that the iPhone 12 will also be manufactured in India beginning early 2021, at Wistron’s facilities in Bengaluru. That could help Apple price the iPhone 12 phones more aggressively, something we saw with the iPhone XR and the iPhone 11 once the manufacturing in India started.
Through the summer and heading into the festive season, the government of India rolled out the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) offer to push for local manufacturing and make India a manufacturing as well as export hub. In June, the government rolled out a PLI offer extending incentives of around Rs 41,000 crore for meeting local manufacturing targets. Apple and Apple’s manufacturing partners in India including Foxconn and Wistron announced their participation in the scheme.
Apple has had one of its best years in India, so far, and the numbers back that up too. According to research firm Canalys, nearly 8,00,000 iPhones were sold in India in the July to September quarter. At the same time, Counterpoint Research noted that Apple had led the premium smartphone segment sales with the iPhone SE (2020) and the iPhone 11 series. Mind you, these numbers came before the launch of the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.