India has overtaken the US to become the world’s second-largest smartphone market

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Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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Smartphone-obsessed India has toppled the US to become the second-largest market for the device, after China.

Smartphone shipments to Asia’s third-largest economy grew 15% annually during the October-December (Q4) period of 2015, taking the user base to 220 million, according to new data from Counterpoint Research.

“The Indian smartphone demand grew strongly during the holiday season in the Q4 2015 quarter,” Pavel Naiya, research analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Analysts have been expecting India to overtake the US for the last few months, but it has happened earlier than expected. In August 2015, American market research firm IDC had predicted that India will overtake the US by 2017.

In 2015 alone, over 100 million smartphones were shipped to India, which is over 23% more than the previous year, Counterpoint Research said.

“This speaks volumes for the scale Indian market provides for any player in the mobile connected ecosystem. Though India still has a long way to go as the smartphone penetration of the total potential population is still below 30%,” said Tarun Pathak, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

There are over 150 brands of smartphones sold in India now, according to Counterpoint Research. Several domestic brands like Micromax, Intex and Lava compete closely with global players like Samsung and Lenovo.

The market is likely to scale “even faster and broader” in 2016, and the Indian government’s initiatives around its “Make in India” campaign could add to this growth. Over 20 mobile phone brands currently assemble in the country, the research said.

“Almost half of the total mobile phones shipped in India during the quarter (Q4) were assembled in India driving the Make In India trend,” the research firm said.

Online retail contributed to the strong growth of smartphone sales in India. Almost one in three smartphones were sold via e-tail during the year, Counterpoint Research said.