Apple Inc will begin assembling its top-end iPhones in India through the local unit of Foxconn as early as 2019, the first time the Taiwanese contract manufacturer will have made the product in the country, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Importantly, Foxconn will be assembling the most expensive models, such as devices in the flagship iPhone X family, the source said, potentially taking Apple’s business in India to a new level. The work will take place at Foxconn’s plant in Sriperumbudur town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, said the source, who declined to be named.
Foxconn, which already makes phones for Xiaomi Corp in India, will invest Rs 25 billion ($356 million) to expand the plant, including investment in iPhone production, Tamil Nadu’s Industries Minister M C Sampath told the media.
The investment may create as many as 25,000 jobs, he added. Another source also said Foxconn planned to assemble iPhones in India, in a move that could help both it and Apple to limit the impact of a trade war between the United States and China.
Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment.
Until now, Cupertino, California-based Apple has only assembled the lower-cost SE and 6S models in India through Wistron Corp’s local unit in the Bengaluru technology hub.
Its sales in India have also been focused on lower-end phones – more than half of its sales volume is driven by models older than the iPhone 8, launched last year, according to technology research firm Counterpoint.
Apple launched the pricey iPhone X last year but has cut production of that phone, according to industry analysts, since it began selling the newer versions, iPhone XS and XR, globally this year. Still, it could potentially get Foxconn to make the older iPhone X version in India where it sells cheaper models in a bid to get a bigger share of the world’s fastest-growing major mobile phone market.
It is not known if any of the iPhone assembly is being moved from existing Foxconn factories in China and elsewhere. It is also unclear whether the production will be confined to assembly or include any component production in India. Indian taxes on import of devices and components have also heightened Apple’s headache in a market where it has only a 1% share by smartphone shipments. Making more phones locally will help Apple save costly duties and boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship drive to make India a manufacturing hub, Singh said.
Apple shocked investors last month with a lower-than-expected sales forecast for the Christmas quarter that jolted parts suppliers across the world.