Samsung is regaining smartphone share in India with a revamped line-up packed with special features including a safety mode for motorcyclists, as rival Apple readies a renewed push into the world’s fastest-growing market.Long the leader in price-conscious India, the South Korean giant had been losing ground to local rivals such as Micromax and Lava, as well as Chinese brands. But Samsung’s Indian market share rose to 30 percent as of February this year, from 28.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 27.4 percent in the final quarter of 2014, research firm Counterpoint says.The company credits strong sales for its mid-tier products, particularly its new Galaxy J series phones.”Differentiated offerings are driving the trend in the mid-to-low-end segment,” said Manu Sharma, vice president of product marketing for Samsung India Electronics.For example, Samsung recently introduced its “S bike” mode, a feature targeted at India’s legions of motorbike riders that, when activated, notifies callers that the phone’s owner is riding and cannot answer.Other draws for Indian buyers include models with features for using less data or keeping the phone alive for longer when charging is not possible.
Researcher GfK says the J2, J5 and J7 account for nearly 20 percent of the Indian mobile market by value. Production cost savings are also enabling Samsung to sell higher-quality phones for less, analysts said.Samsung’s surge in the No 2 smartphone market behind China comes as arch-rival Apple struggles to gain a footing with its expensive phones, holding market share of just 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.The US firm’s renewed efforts to import and sell used iPhones, meanwhile, are facing opposition from local vendors.Samsung’s gains also underscore how the world’s No 1 smartphone maker, with just under a fifth of the global market as of the end of 2015, is finding its footing after a long slide.Though still squeezed by Apple in the premium segment and by Chinese rivals such as Huawei at the lower end, analysts say Samsung is righting itself by launching more attractive products and shaving production costs to compete better on price.”Samsung mid-level smartphones, especially the J series, have been doing quite well in emerging countries, especially in India,” said Tarun Pathak, an analyst for Counterpoint Technology, noting that budget-tier products have driven volumes for the South Korean firm in recent quarters.Such efforts, and better-than-anticipated sales for its flagship Galaxy S7 devices, are expected to lift Samsung’s earnings. Some analysts now expect Samsung’s January-March profit to top 6 trillion won ($5.2 billion), compared with the Thomson Reuters StarMine SmartEstimate of 5.6 trillion won derived from a survey of 22 analysts.Though Samsung will offer no details beyond estimated January-March revenue and operating profit when it gives guidance on Thursday, analysts expect its mobile division to have been its top earner for the first time in seven quarters.