The iPhone gains ground in two big emerging markets

A couple of stories today highlight the traction Apple’s iPhone is gaining in two very different emerging markets. The Wall Street Journal picks up on fresh data from IDC that finds Apple’s share of the smartphone market in China rose to 7 percent in the fourth quarter, up one modest percentage point from the previous quarter. IDC attributed the bump to strong demand for the iPhone 5S, which (along with the iPhone 5C) hit the market in late September, and the increase in sales placed Apple back among the top five smartphone vendors in the region during the quarter.
Bloomberg also cites IDC data in a piece documenting how Apple has forced carriers to succumb to its will in Russia. Russian laws prevent telecoms from offering discounted gadgets packaged with service contracts, and carriers opted not to carry the iPhone due to Apple terms that include minimum sales requirements. So Apple began selling the iPhone through consumer electronics stores, which saw solid demand for the older — and less expensive — iPhone 4 and 4S. The move doubled the number of iPhone sales in Russia from 2012 to 2013, IDC reported, and network operators have begun selling the handsets through their own channels.
Apple is often criticized for not producing a low-end smartphone that could help it grow its market share substantially, particularly in emerging markets. But such a handset would produce far lower margins than Apple typically enjoys, and it would risk tarnishing Apple’s reputation as a vendor of top-notch phones and tablets. It’s easy to see why Apple continues to make profits and reputation bigger priorities than sheer market share.