Smartphone shipments in India grew by 14 per cent to 39 million units in the December quarter, taking the full year growth rate to 8 per cent, according to research firm Canalys. The Indian smartphone market is expected to grow by 8 per cent to over 160 million units in 2020, the research firm said.
Apple - helped by strong growth in sales in the country - managed to secure the sixth spot in the tally, behind Oppo.
"The Indian smartphone market had a slow start to 2019, but finished with a sprint in the last half. The market grew 14 per cent in Q4 2019 with total shipments at 39 million units," the report said.
For the full year, Indian smartphone market grew by 8 per cent, reaching a total of 148 million smartphones, it added.
Xiaomi led the market in the last quarter with shipments of 11.2 million units (29 per cent share), followed by Samsung with 8.1 million units (21 per cent share) and vivo with 7 million units and 18 per cent share. realme and Oppo had 12 per cent market share in the fourth quarter.
The report said Apple had registered its best-ever performance in India, "owing to a cheaper iPhone 11, and excitement around its dual and triple cameras".
It shipped close to 925,000 iPhones in the fourth quarter - a growth of over 200 per cent annually. Its previous best performance was in the third quarter of 2017 when it shipped 890,000 iPhones to India.
"Apple also finished sixth, behind Oppo, its highest rank in India since Q4 2013. For the full year, Apple shipped 2.0 million iPhones versus 1.6 million in 2018," the report said.
Canalys Analyst Madhumita Chaudhary said while the current slowdown continues to shroud the market with much uncertainty, the end-of-year surge saved the market from an otherwise poor first-half performance.
"Online sales have been a silver lining, with vendors boosting sell-in to online retailers Flipkart and Amazon via exclusive tie-ups. However, relying exclusively on the online channel proved to be a double-edged sword, especially for Realme, which has seen its sell-in fall as online sales slow after the festive season. But overall, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Realme had a commendable year," Chaudhary added.
Canalys Research Analyst Adwait Mardikar said vendors' short-term and long-term prospects will depend on government regulation and taxation.
"Potential lowering of direct tax, that correlates to consumer spending in the short-term, will be a key topic. The long-term roadmap, however, depends on two main factors: telcos, and Make-in-India," Mardikar said.
Mardikar added that the cash-starved telcos will need a reprieve, either in the form of waivers or increased tariffs, without which telco investments into 5G will likely slow down, making it difficult for vendors to build a case for 5G smartphones.
"As for Make-in-India, any changes to import duties for parts will be a contributing factor to profitability, thereby affecting OEM product portfolios and pricing. 2020 will be a year in transition for the Indian smartphone market," Mardikar said.