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Lukewarm response to new Apple iPhones in opening weekend

Demand expected to grow as most customers await a drop in prices

Arnab Dutta  |  New Delhi 

Apple iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus: Looking and doing good

Indian customers welcomed Apple Inc’s new iPhones — 6s and 6s Plus — with characteristic queues during its midnight launch on Friday. While the move prompted Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook to tweet about it, the queues weren’t long enough to excite retailers.

Conversations with general, modern and online trade across cities, such as Mumbai and Delhi, indicate the opening weekend has seen a tepid response to the new iPhones. Cumulative sales over the first weekend are estimated to be in the region of 50,000 across all retail formats.

This is lower than what Apple had done last year during the launch phase of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, when demand had outstripped supply. At that time, 55,000 handsets had been shipped by the company into India, which were quickly sold in the first 72 hours after the launch.

This time around, the company is said to have shipped nearly three times last year’s number — around 165,000 handsets during the launch phase in anticipation of good sales. But initial sales trends suggest offtake has been only around 30 per cent as customers await a drop in prices.

Alok Gupta, chief executive of The Mobile Store, the Essar Group-promoted chain of electronic stores, said sales at his outlets were higher than that of last year, but customers were in a wait-and-watch mode.

“The initial rush is typically of die-hard Apple fans, who have come flocking to our stores. Sales are up 30-40 per cent over last year. But the second wave will come after a brief lull, possibly after prices fall,” Gupta noted.

The base price of the iPhone 6s is 16 per cent higher than that of the iPhone 6 16GB. It is pegged at Rs 62,000. The iPhone 6s Plus 128 GB variant, on the other hand, is priced at Rs 92,000.

Most retailers say this second wave will come following a slash in prices by online marketplaces. “Given that mobile phones as a category has moved online a few years ago, most offline retailers will wait for the e-tailers to blink,” said the chief executive of a top regional retail chain.

Snapdeal, Amazon and Flipkart did not respond to questions on the subject. Snapdeal had issued a statement on Friday saying its pre-bookings were 25,000. It did not specify last year’s number though.

This year, Apple had tied up with several websites besides the conventional online marketplaces to push sales. This included Gadgets 360, Infibeam and Paytm, as well as telecom operators Vodafone and Airtel, who had all begun pre-bookings prior to launch.

Brick-and-mortar chains such as The Mobile Store, Spice HotSpot, promoted by S Mobility, formerly Spice Mobility, as well as the Tata-owned Croma offered pre-bookings. Even city-specific dealers offered pre-bookings to cash in on the hype.

Avijit Mitra, chief executive of Infiniti Retail, which runs the Croma chain of electronic stores, says its pre-bookings were in line with devices priced over Rs 50,000. “What we have observed is more of the pre-bookings getting initiated online,” said Mitra without giving specific numbers.

According to sources, prices are estimated to fall below Rs 60,000 for the base model of the iphone 6s in the next couple of weeks, prompting further action at the cash counters.

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First Published: Mon, October 19 2015. 00:39 IST