Apple hikes iPhone prices in key China and India markets despite keeping them the same in the U.S.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook holds up a new iPhone 15 Pro during an Apple event on September 12, 2023 in Cupertino, California.
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Apple hiked the prices of its latest iPhones in some of its key markets including China, Japan and India, even as it kept prices the same in the U.S.

It comes as Apple looks to reinvigorate growth amid a broader slowdown in the smartphone market as it targets premium users in countries like India, which has become a big focus for the Cupertino-based giant.

Apple launched the iPhone 15 range on Tuesday. In the U.S., the prices for all of the devices and different storage configurations remained the same versus the previous generation iPhone 14.

But in China, which accounts for nearly 20% of Apple’s total sales, the company raised prices for nearly all of the iPhone 15 models. The base versions of the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max remained the same. But Chinese customers will pay more for higher storage options. For example, the 512 gigabyte version of the iPhone 15 has risen by 300 Chinese yuan ($41) versus the iPhone 14.

In India, Apple kept prices for all versions of the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus the same. But it hiked prices for all of the versions of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. The iPhone 15 Pro in India now starts at 134,900 Indian rupees ($1,627) versus 129,900 rupees for the iPhone 14 Pro — a 5,000 rupee or roughly $60 increase.

All the versions of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, however, are priced 10,000 rupees higher than the equivalent iPhone 14 Pro Max model.

India has become a big focus for Apple this year. Chief Executive Tim Cook visited the country in April as Apple opened its first physical stores there. Apple has also ramped up manufacturing of its iPhones in India.

CNBC has reached out to Apple to ask about the manufacturing plans in India for the iPhone 15.

The price rises in both India and China can be partly explained by the fact that their respective currencies, the Indian rupee and Chinese yuan, have depreciated against the U.S. dollar in the last year. That means that both currencies are able to buy fewer U.S. dollars. So Apple is making up for that.

In India specifically, the Pro models are likely imported rather than manufactured locally, and are therefore subjected to a high import tax.

The price rises are also quite modest and mainly hit the more expensive models, which is unlikely to affect consumer sentiment much.

“Consumers who are buying the premium smartphones are much less price sensitive, not to mention the financing option and trade-in are very well established in these markets,” Nicole Peng, senior vice president at market research firm Canalys, told CNBC.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Apple raised the price of every model of the iPhone 15.

Apple’s pricing strategy for the iPhone 15 has been cautious. Price rises haven’t been particularly steep. That’s because Apple needs to tread cautiously after its iPhone revenue fell 2% year-on-year in the June quarter amid a broader slump in smartphone sales globally. There are still headwinds for the smartphone market this year. Counterpoint Research said it expects total smartphone shipments in 2023 to decline 6% year-on-year to 1.15 billion devices.

“Globally, Apple’s shipments are only expected to see a 1% growth in the full year 2023. Thus, higher prices, which especially target the consumers in the more resilient and wealthier segment, could help to support Apple’s revenue amid the challenging market environment,” Will Wong, a senior research manager at IDC, told CNBC.

Apple price cuts

Apple has balanced out some of the rises with price cuts elsewhere.

In the U.K., Apple reduced the price of all iPhone 15 models versus the iPhone 14. For example, the iPhone 14 started at £849 ($1,059) while the iPhone 15 is £50 less at £799.

Meanwhile, Apple cut the price of the older iPhone 14 in China, its website showed.

“A lower price for older models like the iPhone 14 is a good strategy as it will help target consumers who are budget-conscious but still hope to get a premium branded phone,” Wong said.

“And while the new iPhone 15 series is targeting consumers with more budget, both the new and old series could help to enhance its user base.”

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