KOLKATA: Apple plans to advance the launch of its just-unveiled iPhone 6S and 6S Plus in India to the first half of October and may bring in Apple Watch as early as next week, setting the stage for one of its biggest marketing wars with arch-rival Samsung this festive season, four senior trade officials said.
The US technology giant in a closed-door meeting with its key trade partners on Wednesday indicated its intention to advance the launch of Apple Watch and triple sales of the new iPhones during the crucial October-December period, they said.
Apple’s move follows Samsung’s decision to launch its new flagship smartphones Galaxy S6 edge+ and Note5 much ahead of the usual high-profile launches just before Diwali. The Korean firm has already launched its Galaxy S6 edge+ and has announced the launch of Note5 on September 20.
“Both Apple and Samsung are launching their new flagship phone models much ahead of Diwali this year to make the most of the festive season,” said K Krishna Pawan, executive director at Lot Mobiles.
Apple has also informed trade that it will try to launch the new iPhones by October 10-11, almost a month ahead of its earlier plans, sources said. If the Apple India team manages to convince its Cupertino headquarters, it will be the fastest ever launch of any Apple product in India since announcement.
“An October launch will give it a significant time to align its marketing campaign well ahead of Diwali unlike last year when it got just a week for the same and also leveraging upon its expanded distribution coverage now as compared to an year ago,” said Tarun Pathak, senior analyst at market tracker Counterpoint Research.
As per the Hong Kong-based market tracker, Samsung overtook Apple in the Indian premium smartphone market between January and June with 56% market share against Apple’s 35%.
Pathak said Apple can gain market share in the second half with the new iPhone models and price cut of the older models.
Trade insiders say it won’t be easy. “Apple will be desperate to win back its market share in the premium segment in India,” a senior official with a leading smartphone retail chain said. “But it will be a tough fight considering Samsung still is far ahead in distribution and has far higher marketing budget allocated this year during the Diwali season,” the person added.
Samsung is leaving no stones unturned in its efforts to market its new flagships. Hyun Chil Hong, its president and chief executive officer for India, is personally monitoring the entire supply chain for the two new models and meeting senior officials at leading retail chains to avoid any inventory shortage problem like it faced last Diwali.
The Korean firm has also undertaken a guerrilla-marketing tactic online and in social media, whereby Galaxy S6 edge+ advertisement appeared when one did a Google search on the latest iPhones. Samsung had also increased its activity on social media on its new flagships since Wednesday afternoon in India ahead of the global launch of the new iPhone launch during midnight.
Samsung India director (mobile business) Manu Sharma said that while sales for Galaxy S6 edge+ has been much more than its projection, pre-bookings on Note5 too is beyond expectation. “The number of conversation on these two models in social media in India too is at its highest ever,” he said.