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Apple trialing iPhone 6s Plus production in India in bid to cut costs

Apple's lone assembly partner with a footprint in India, Wistron, has reportedly entered trial production of the iPhone 6s Plus there — despite that device being nearly three years old.

Wistron has set up a line for the 6s Plus at its Bengaluru facility, which currently manufactures the iPhone SE, according to two senior industry executives cited by India's The Economic Times. Commercial production will allegedly begin within the next couple of weeks.

While it might initially seem counterintuitive to run 6s Plus production in 2018, the phone is still technically in Apple's modern lineup, and the company has a marginal presence in the Indian smartphone market because wages and "premium" pricing — exacerbated by import costs — often put a new iPhone out of the average person's reach. The company has enjoyed some success within the high-cost segment.

Apple has often resorted to selling iPhones considered outdated in other markets. The iPhone 6 was estimated to account for as much as a third of Indian iPhone sales in 2017.

The executives quoted by the Times suggested that the cost of the 6s Plus could be further reduced by 5 to 7 percent with local manufacturing, at least once Wistron is able to grow capacity. The company is also said to be talking to parts makers and other assemblers like Foxconn about expanding their Indian presence. Apple has already added two more sourcing partners in India, namely Salcomp and Shenzhen YUTO Packaging Technology, allowing it to secure adapters, chargers, and packaging.

There are now said to be five supplier plants in India, versus the single facility Apple had about a year ago.

Apple has been rumored as wanting to launch an "iPhone SE 2" sometime this year, possibly even assembling it exclusively in India. That's unlikely however, since though the SE is due for an update the company would need capacity beyond what Wistron has in India to meet global demand.

Aside from getting around import fees, local manufacturing may also help pave the way for the country's first Apple stores. Single-brand retailers such as Apple must normally meet a 30 percent sourcing requirement, which has stopped the company from making any concrete plans.