Apple's ongoing struggles in India have been highlighted this week in a report by CNBC, which interviewed locals to ask about their experiences with the cost of Apple devices and the company's services. Indian users were favorable of Apple Music over rival services -- thanks to an improved catalog and affordable subscription price -- but Apple Maps and Siri received much lower marks.
Echoing some complaints about the two services heard in other countries, including from United States users, Indian customers said that Apple Maps has sparse data for a number of cities and towns, misses landmarks, and lacks basic turn-by-turn directions. One user in Bangalore, Mihir Sharma, summed it up by stating, "Apple Maps is a joke in India."
Other mapping complaints in India included the lack of similar navigation features within CarPlay. CNBC's report on the topic comes nearly two years after Apple announced the opening of a new Hyderabad-based development center focused on improving Apple Maps in India.
Otherwise, many of the issues users had with Apple in the country focused on Siri, which is said to not understand "many words of Indian origination" and "often struggles" to make sense and correctly respond to Indian accents. Apple added Hindi dictation in iOS 11 last fall, including support for 11 local languages, but those locals asked said it still "isn't good enough." Rival AI assistants from Google and Amazon are both reported as performing better in India.
The poor performance of Apple's services in India carries into the low sale volumes of its hardware, and analyst Faisal Kawoosa explained that the "Apple ecosystem isn't aligned much to the usage and value of Indian users." Data gathered by research firm Counterpoint said that Apple represented a total of 2.5 percent of India's smartphone market as of the quarter that ended in December 2017.
"There is no denial that Apple ecosystem isn't aligned much to the usage and value of Indian users. So, the services offered don't have flavors that would entice the Indian users," Faisal Kawoosa, an analyst with research firm CMR India said. "At the same time, the typical segment buying Apple products isn't that typical Indian user. But, no brand can afford to underserve a segment — big or small," he added.
In addition to the issues with Apple services, iPhones are more expensive in India due to the country's charge on imported electronics, further lowering sales volume in the country. Apple has begun to manufacture the iPhone SE locally in India to sell it cheaper, as well as allow retailers to reduce the price of older iPhones, but all other models remain expensive. The cheapest iPhone 8 costs Rs 66,120 ($1,040) and the cheapest iPhone X costs Rs 92,430 ($1,450).
Even as Apple attempted to gain market share with older and cheaper iPhone models, the company increased the prices of most of its newer iPhones sold in India following the Indian government's decision to raise taxes on imported smartphones. In the wake of this, Apple appointed Michel Coulomb as lead of sales operations in India, with the aim to help Apple in its attempts to gain a bigger share of the country's smartphone market and boost local manufacturing.
During Apple's Q4 2017 earnings call, CEO Tim Cook likened the company's current struggle in India to "the many years" it put into fostering growth in China. Cook said it'll take time to see India meet up with China in this regard, and will come with building stores, building the developer ecosystem, and more. He finished by stating, "I feel like we're making good progress there and are gaining understanding of the market. But we still have a long way to go, which I sort of see as an opportunity, instead of a problem."