Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been eyeing the Indian smartphone market for years -- and investing accordingly. The Mac maker overhauled its operations in the world's second-most-populous nation a few years back, in part to better accommodate the complex local regulations regarding retail distribution. "We are investing in India," CEO Tim Cook said last August, before adding, "I see a lot of similarities [to] where China was several years ago."

Those efforts haven't paid off -- yet.

iPhone X lineup

Image source: Apple.

Apple isn't even within the top five smartphone vendors in India

Counterpoint Research has released its latest estimates for the Indian smartphone market, and they show that Samsung has been able to reclaim the top spot from Chinese rival Xiaomi, which recently went public in Hong Kong and has been aggressively expanding into India. Xiaomi had become the No. 1 vendor two quarters ago. Samsung's updated Galaxy J Series of midtier handsets has resonated with consumers, bringing previously flagship-level features like dual cameras and facial recognition to that segment of the market.

Overall, the market posted strong growth of 21%, which was boosted by new product launches alongside generous promotional activity. Other Chinese brands were able to sweep the rest of the top five, which are consolidating, as all other vendors collectively lost share.

India Market Share

Q2 2017

Q2 2018



















Data source: Counterpoint Research.

Where's Apple? A measly 1%, which Counterpoint calls "its lowest in recent history." Apple has long struggled to gain traction in India, as it is difficult to sell premium iPhones in a country whose GDP per capita is less than $2,000, according to the World Bank. iPhone X starts at approximately $1,200 in India.

Patience is a virtue

Apple is playing the long game in India, as it will still likely be many years until it can capture a meaningful share of the market. The company was very patient in investing in China, a strategy that has now paid off in spades and continues to do so.

Demographic shifts like the rising middle class in China have taken over a decade to play out, and are still ongoing. In May, Cook reiterated his confidence in the Indian market on the earnings call:

Yes, good question. Let me start with India, and then I'll talk more about China. India, we set a new first-half record. So we continue to put great energy there and try to -- our objective over time is to go in there with all of our different initiatives from retail and everything else. And so we're working toward those things. It's a huge market, and it's clear that many people will be moving into the middle class over time as we've seen in other countries.

Long-term investors have nothing to worry about.