India’s government recently invited Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung to discuss embedding government-funded biometric technology into products sold within the country as part of an effort to register and authenticate its citizens, but Apple declined to attend, reports Bloomberg.
The initiative is part of a national biometric identity program called Aadhaar (Hindi for foundation). Millions of Indians use fingerprint and iris-scan authentication to access a range of public and private services that now includes banking. Failure to join the effort could limit the tech industry’s access to a vast and growing market, but companies like Apple and Google are expected to resist opening up their phones and operating systems to the Indian registration, encryption and security technology.
“There will be lots of pushing and shoving by the technology companies,”Neeraj Aggarwal, managing director of the Boston Consulting Group in India, told Bloomberg. “It will be a battle of ecosystems, and companies will do their best to hold on to their own.”
What’s more, Within two years, all phones — including iPhones — sold in India must have a “panic button” and built-in GPS, according to a new ruling by Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The document signed by the minister said “feature phones without the facility of panic button by pressing Numeric key — 5 or Numeric key — 9 to invoke emergency call” shall not be sold in India, reports The Times of India. The ruling goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Getting a foothold in India has been a challenge for Apple. The company has opened its retail stores in a number of countries around the world, but not in India. The country has restrictive real estate investment laws for foreign companies. However, The Indian government is expected to allow Apple to open its own retail outlets in the country without any sourcing requirement for two-to-three years as it tries to work out an arrangement under which the company will agree to local purchases once it gets a stronger toehold in the country, reports the Times of India. Whether Apple’s opposition to the Aadhaar initiative impacts that decision remains to be seen.
What’s more, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, Apple’s iOS fell 35% annually and shipped 0.8 million smartphones in India in Q2 2016. Apple’s smartphone marketshare has halved from 4% to just 2% in India during the past year.