As the smartphone market in China slows, Apple has taken a big step towards expanding its presence in India by applying for official government permission to launch its first flagship branded retail store there.
The move underlines a broader search for new growth markets for Apple, at a time when some Wall Street analysts predict that iPhone sales could fall this year, for the first time in the company's history.
The world's most valuable business by market capitalisation has steadily increased its operations in India over recent years, but the long-awaited decision to open a retail store is likely to be viewed as a clear statement that Apple plans to expand more aggressively in the fast-growing Asian market.
Apple confirmed that it had filed an application to India's department of industrial policy and promotion, which, if accepted, would allow it to open its first solo branded retail outlet.
Until recently, Apple's relatively expensive iPhones have struggled to compete in India's cost-conscious electronics market, winning a reputation as a prized status symbol among affluent buyers, but at prices beyond the reach of ordinary consumers.
In the longer-term, however, Apple views India as the most likely replacement for the booming sales in China that have powered its rise over recent years. Analysts say smartphone sales in China are levelling off, as are those in industrial economies.