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Apple's request to sell used iPhones in India gets denied

The denial by the Indian government hampers Apple's goal of selling budget-friendly iPhones in the world's second-biggest smartphone market.


India to Apple: No, you can't sell used iPhones here.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's bid to sell used iPhones in India has been given the thumbs-down.

The company had been seeking permission to import and sell refurbished iPhones in the country. But the Indian government rejected the application, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing an anonymous telecommunications ministry official. Apple ran into the same roadblock last year when a similar request was turned down by India's environment ministry, Bloomberg added.

This time, Apple's competition may have helped sway the Indian government. Apple rivals asserted that selling refurbished iPhones in the country would lead to a deluge of used devices, according to Bloomberg. The companies also argued that Apple's move would hamper the government's Make-in-India program, which tries to push local manufacturers to make products.

As the world's second-largest smartphone market, India is a crucial battleground for Apple. The company holds only a 2 percent share of India's smartphone sales, in large part because the iPhone is a premium-priced device in a country where consumers gravitate to cheaper phones. Selling used but budget-friendly iPhones could have helped Apple increase its slice of the market.

Last Tuesday, Apple reported a 16 percent decline in overall iPhone sales for the most recent quarter. But iPhone sales in India jumped by 56 percent, according to CEO Tim Cook. That growth came despite India's preference for budget-friendly smartphones. In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Cook spoke about the potential of India, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.

"India will be the most populous country in the world in 2022," Cook said. "More than half the population is 25 years old or younger. LTE penetration is still very low in India and once that happens, there is huge potential. The retailers selling iPhones in India are not huge retailers and carriers do not sell phones."

Apple is also looking to open its first retail stores in India, an initiative that's expected to get the green light. Apple already sells new iPhones and iPads in India online and through resellers. But Apple-branded stores could help sales by giving consumers the chance to try out products and talk with customer service representatives in person.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.