For long, Apple’s iPhone has been the status quo for many, it won’t be an overkill to call the iPhone a Rolls Royce of smartphones. That being said, the high sticker price has often deterred people from owning one and this has been the fodder for many Internet jokes. However, this year was the first one in which Apple actually slashed the prices of the ongoing iPhone 6s and also brought in to force several buy back schemes, predicting slowdown of sales in India.

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Now it seems that the Cupertino company wants to sell refurbished iPhones in India and in due course of time wants to set up a facility to refurbish used phones shipped from China. According to an application filed, “Apple would like to seek the government’s approval to import and sell its certified pre-owned iPhones in India; manufacture and sell its certified pre-owned iPhones in India.

Notice the word ‘manufacture’ above. Refurbishing old/damaged iPhones would involve some reassembling of parts, but calling it ‘manufacturing’ looks like a ploy to get the tax rebates under ‘Make in India’ campaign. But then, everyone else is doing similar thing by assembling their phones in India, rather than truly manufacturing them here.

As rightly pointed out by Indian Express, Apple had filed a similar application last year and intended to import 1-lakh used iPhones and 2.5-Lakh iPads, but the application was rejected by the government citing the reason that it would add to India’s e-waste.

TRC (Technical Review Committee), the body responsible for granting such applications said that the refurbished devices had a shorter functional life and would be obsolete faster, thus adding to India’s e-waste. They further said that imports that were less than three years and with at least five years of residual life could be allowed.

As of now, importing of e-waste is allowed only for the actual users for recycle and any company or agency cannot import and resell. The authorities seem to be apprehensive that a relaxation in this law would lead to a load of cheap imports landing on the Indian shores.

Over the past year or so, there has been surge in number of startups offering Unboxed and refurbished smartphones in India. Companies like Greendust, Rebox, Overcart and Valuecart have grown their business by selling refurbished smartphones including iPhones. No wonder Apple wants to have its own share of the pie now.

While the concern with the import is sound and justifiable, one also needs to consider the fact that Apple would be replacing the phone with the original parts and it would also be regenerating a new IMEI number. Adding to that is the fact that Apple would definitely be sticking to a stern policy when it comes to using recyclable materials, something that may or may not be followed religiously by a low cost smartphone manufacturer. It will be interesting to see if Apple gets the government nod in India.


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Senior Author

Mahit Huilgol is a Mechanical Engineering graduate and is a Technology and Automobile aficionado. He ditched the Corporate boardroom wars in the favor for technology battle ground. Also a foodie by heart and loves both the edible chips and the non-edible silicon chips.