Apple sharpens focus on India with new maps development centre

The iPhone maker is setting up a center in Hyderabad

The iPhone maker is setting up a center in Hyderabad

The iPhone maker is setting up a center in Hyderabad

Apple is setting up a maps development center in India, part of a broader effort to grab a bigger share of one of the world's largest markets.

The company has also applied to the government to set up its first wholly owned, branded store in the country to take advantage of the liberalization of retail rules for foreign companies.

India is one of the few smartphone markets that is is experiencing growth even as other heavily populated countries like China are showing signs of saturation.

Apple's ability to grab a significant share of the Indian market will depend on its ability to offer cost-effective models for a price-sensitive population, according to analysts. It has so far tried to build up its share by selling earlier models of its phones. Apple may also have to consider manufacturing their products in India, as have many other smartphone makers, to benefit from incentives for local manufacturing.

The company said on Tuesday that it is opening a development office in Hyderabad that will have over 150 Apple employees supporting maps development. "The office will also have space for many contractors who will support our ambitious efforts locally," it added, without providing details.

Data released by IDC on Tuesday showed that Apple did not figure among the top five smartphone makers in the country. Samsung had the largest market share, with 26.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, followed by Indian vendor Micromax with more than 14 percent.

The Indian smartphone market grew 15.4 percent in the quarter, year over year, to 25.6 million phones. Sixty percent of the market was held by Indian and Chinese vendors who mainly target the price-sensitive segments of the market. On Wednesday, a new entrant, Ringing Bells, is expected to announce a smartphone that could be priced at around US$7, according to reports.

Apple announced last month that it was setting what it described as Europe's first iOS app development center, in Italy.

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John Ribeiro

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