Taiwan’s Wistron plans to assemble printed circuit boards (PCBs) for Apple iPhones at its new manufacturing plant in southern India, Reuters reported.
The development highlights Apple’s push to expand smartphone manufacturing in the world’s second-biggest smartphone market.
India smartphone market has surpassed the United States for the first time, becoming the second-largest smartphone market, reaching 158 million shipments in 2019 with 7 percent growth, according to Counterpoint.
Apple achieved its best-ever performance in India due to the launch of cheaper iPhone 11, and excitement around its dual and triple cameras, Canalys Analyst Madhumita Chaudhary said recently.
Apple shipped close to 925 thousand iPhones in Q4 2019, growing by over 200 percent annually. Its previous best performance was in Q3 2017 when it shipped 890 thousand iPhones to India.
Apple finished sixth, behind Oppo, its highest rank in India since Q4 2013. Apple shipped 2 million iPhones in 2019 versus 1.6 million in 2018.
The local assembly of PCBs by Wistron’s India business unit will be a first for the contract manufacturer, which began making Apple’s low-priced SE model in Bengaluru in 2017. It currently assembles the 6S and 7 iPhone models there as well.
A PCB is a bed for key components such as processors, memory and wireless chip sets that are the heart of an electronic device. Once assembled, or populated with components, PCBs account for about half the cost of a smartphone.
Wistron’s second iPhone plant is expected to become operational by April. It will make Apple iPhone 7 and 8 models. The facility will be capable of producing up to 8 million smartphones annually.
The plan is part of Wistron’s $422.12 million investment proposal submitted to the Karnataka state government in 2018.
Foxconn, Wistron’s bigger rival, which began making iPhone XR models in India last year, already assembles PCBs for those devices locally.
The PCB assembly in India will help Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple save on import taxes on smartphone components, levied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to boost local manufacturing and create new jobs.
India said in its federal budget that it will from April begin taxing imports of populated PCBs at a higher 20 percent from the previous rate of 10 percent.
Apple, which makes most of its iPhones in China, has moved to expand iPhone production in other countries as Washington and Beijing wage a battle over trade and technology.
Apple’s market share by shipment volumes is just over 1 percent, though it was among the fastest growing smartphone brands in India in the quarter to Dec. 2019, according to market researcher Counterpoint.
India remains dependent on China for supplies of smartphone parts such as cells, display panels, camera modules and printed circuit boards.
The coronavirus outbreak in China could cause a delay in Wistron and Apple’s plans for India.