Apple’s local iPhone production in India could be hit if…

Technology giant Apple has told the government that its local production targets could suffer if the country follows the European Union, requiring existing iPhones to have universal charging ports. A government document accessed by news agency Reuters suggests that Apple has lobbied for an exemption on delay.

Apple’s plea comes as the government wants to implement a norm that requires smartphones to have universal USB-C charging ports, similar to a rule set in progress by the EU.

The government has been in talks with manufacturers about the rollout of the requirement in the country by June 2025. Most manufacturers, including the likes of Samsung, have agreed to the plan, but Apple is not on board yet.

It may be noted that Apple has offered a unique lighting connector port on its iPhones for years. However, the EU has gone ahead with the universal charger plan as it would save about $271 million for consumers, while India said the move will reduce e-waste.

The EU’s charging port rules come into effect in December 2024, and India wants the same to kick in by June 2025.

According to the Reuters report, in a closed-door meeting chaired by the IT ministry on November 28, Apple asked officials to exempt existing iPhone models from the rule as it would otherwise struggle to meet production targets set under the country’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme.

PLI provides fiscal incentives to electronics manufacturers in India for both new investments and annual increases in phone sales. This incentive program has been widely utilized by Apple suppliers, such as Foxconn, to enhance iPhone manufacturing operations within the country.

“If the regulation is implemented on earlier models of mobile phones, they (Apple) will not be able to meet the PLI targets,” said Apple’s regulatory and product compliance executives during the meeting. Two people familiar with the discussions said Apple did not quantify the production impact in the meeting and the IT ministry has decided to review its request and reach a decision later.

Universal charger rule could hit local production

The universal charger rule could be a big blow for Apple, which has seen its sales soar in India over the past few years. With India becoming Apple’s next frontier after China, renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo estimated that 12-14 percent of iPhone production in 2023 will be from India. He believes the number is set to rise to as much as 25 percent next year.

Meanwhile, Apple’s market share has been growing in India rapidly, currently at 6 percent compared with just about 2 percent around four years ago.

In such a scenario, changing the design of existing models to include a universal charger could be a massive blow to Apple. It may be noted that only iPhone 15 has the new universal charging port and Apple has reportedly told Indian officials that the “design of the earlier products cannot be changed”.

Prabhu Ram, head of the Industry Intelligence Group at CyberMedia Research told Reuters that consumers in India prefer buying older models of iPhones which become cheaper with new launches. He said India’s push for common chargers on existing iPhone models could hit Apple’s production targets, subsequently impacting sales.

Apple has reportedly told officials it can comply with that timeline only if existing models are exempted from the rules. However, representatives of Apple have conveyed that it will take at least 18 months beyond 2024 if the existing models are not exempted from the universal charger rule.

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