Nokia Reported Rapidly Losing Market Share in India, Apple Poised to Steal More

nokiaHow the mighty have fallen: A new study from IDC says Nokia's rapidly losing market share in the massive Indian cell phone market. Nokia says "humbug" and suggests it's all fine. But with Apple rumored to be sweeping in, Nokia's woes seem poised to worsen.

IDC's key finding is that Nokia's market share in the overall Indian cell phone space has tumbled, very quickly, from 54% at the end of 2009 to just 36.3% six months later at the end of June. That's a hugely challenging statistic, and at that rate by the middle of next year Nokia's share would be vanishingly small. Why the big fall? It's a combination of a rapidly growing Indian market, strong competition from own-nation firms and a lack of innovation by Nokia—most significantly, according to IDC, in the dual-SIM phone segment, which IDC thinks accounted for nearly 40% of all handsets sold in early 2010.

The data has stirred Nokia to angry responses: Its managing director in India noted the firm "continues to do well" in all market segments in India, before commenting that IDC's stats seemed to concern shipments of phones rather than actual sales. He even remarked that Nokia's own estimates of the dual-SIM market share was a much lower 22%. We know Nokia's been aggressively targeting rural customers in India, who make up about a quarter of the market, and has even set up a factory there in the last decade.

IDC has defended its stats, which agree with—and significantly extend—earlier data and in essence Nokia's response is more a PR effort than very truthful: The company only offers a limited selection of dual-sim phone, and it would seem its trajectory in the overall Indian market really isn't soaring upwards. The only question is about how bad its long-term prospects in the dumbphone and feature phone markets actually are.

And Nokia is facing another significant threat: Apple. We're aware that the prevailing opinion is that Nokia's grip has slipped off the cutting edge of smartphone design, and as smartphones assume the central position in the future of cell phone tech, Nokia may already be too late to catch up to the lead set by Apple and Google. Now there are increasingly concrete rumors Apple will make a CDMA version of the iPhone to satisfy the U.S.'s leading provider Verizon. And CDMA networks are also highly popular in India, offering access to potentially tens of millions of subscribers—other rumors are already suggesting Apple's going to target these consumers.

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