The internet is abuzz with the new iPhones, but once again, folks in India have been handed the shit side of the pricing scale. Apple has kept the asking price mostly identical in the US — and even reduced it in markets like the UK — but in India, 2023 iPhones once again come tagged alongside an unsavory price hike.
Take, for example, the iPhone 15 Pro Max — a mostly meh iterative upgrade — which now starts at Rs. 1.6 Lac in India. If you intend to moonlight as the "mobigrapher" at your pal's wedding and need plenty of storage for those crisp 4K ProRes videos, the 1TB storage variant will cost you a modest Rs. 1,99,900 before taxes.
Now, one can argue that the depreciating value of the Indian Rupee compared to the US Dollar is to blame here. But Apple has absorbed the currency conversions in a different fashion for other markets where it intends to sell the iPhone 15 quartet. What truly baffles the mind is that India is now a manufacturing hub for iPhones.
Made in India, remember?
In fact, 2023 marks the first time that iPhone 15 models assembled in India will hit the shelves on Day 1, side-by-side with units made in child labor-loving factories in China. Now, our dear government isn't really kind to the idea of importing and selling gear in India.
But at the same time, it offers a carrot-and-stick deal to ensure that deep-pocket brands like Apple don't run away with their blingy tail wedged between their human rights-violating capitalist cheeks. The idea is simple: manufacture in India, avoid the import duty and also get some tax cuts while at it.
Seems like a win-win. Apple gets to avoid fat duties and expand its footprint, while the government gets to tout its achievement. Apple took the bait. In 2017, Apple started making iPhones for the first time in India, beginning with the cheap iPhone SE. It was in 2020 that Apple started making flagship iPhones for the first time in India.
But not everything is gravy. Apple can't make all phone parts in India, especially the all-powerful chip, which is strictly exclusive to the silicon fabs in Taiwan and China. That means Apple still has to import those parts, aka pay a fee for it. Since 2015, India has been charging a 22% import duty on smartphones.
In 2022, the Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) asked the Indian government to remove the customs duty on smartphone parts, the social welfare surcharge worth 10%, and reducing the GST burden on phones from 18% to the 12% mark.
Last year, the Indian government killed the 2.5% customs duty on select smartphone components. The government's move was not a failure, though, as local manufacturing of phones and associated peripherals climbed to a historic high.
Unsurprisingly, Apple is a key beneficiary. Such is Apple's enthusiasm that the company's contract manufacturer in India, Foxconn, will quadruple its India workforce in the next couple of years. Of course, the share of phones made in India will also climb up.
With so much, where the hell is the benefit to the distraught iPhone shoppers in India?
It was pretty clear from the get-go that Apple's Made in India moves won't necessarily mean cheaper iPhones. So far, that's been the holy market truth for iPhone stans in India.
That begs the question — Is Apple's local manufacturing buzz just a way to diversify its supply chain away from China while giving Indians a false sense of pride as a production hotspot for the world's most valuable brand?
Look, I'm pragmatic. If Apple's multi-billion strategies for Made in India phones aren't passing the benefits to Indian shoppers, I'm not convinced. Also, you shouldn't frikking consider dropping north of 1.6L on a Pro iPhone.