As Apple plots India push, Samsung stakes turf with revamped phones

Tue Apr 5, 2016 7:05pm EDT
 
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By Himank Sharma and Se Young Lee

MUMBAI/SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS: Quote) is regaining smartphone share in India with a revamped line-up packed with special features including a safety mode for motorcyclists, as rival Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) readies a renewed push into the world's fastest-growing market.

Long the leader in price-conscious India, the South Korean giant had been losing ground to local rivals such as Micromax and Lava, as well as Chinese brands. But Samsung's Indian market share rose to 30 percent as of February this year, from 28.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 27.4 percent in the final quarter of 2014, research firm Counterpoint says.

The company credits strong sales for its mid-tier products, particularly its new Galaxy J series phones.

"Differentiated offerings are driving the trend in the mid-to-low-end segment," said Manu Sharma, vice president of product marketing for Samsung India Electronics.

For example, Samsung recently introduced its "S bike" mode, a feature targeted at India's legions of motorbike riders that, when activated, notifies callers that the phone's owner is riding and cannot answer.

Other draws for Indian buyers include models with features for using less data or keeping the phone alive for longer when charging is not possible.

Researcher GfK says the J2, J5 and J7 account for nearly 20 percent of the Indian mobile market by value. Production cost savings are also enabling Samsung to sell higher-quality phones for less, analysts said.

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A salesperson serves a customer (R) at a Samsung mobile store inside a shopping mall in New Delhi, April 5, 2016.   REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee