Front, back, and side views of iPhone 4 in black

According to a new report, Apple has discontinued its four-year-old iPhone 4 smartphone model in India. Although the Cupertino firm had re-launched the handset in the 1.24 billion people market back in January, it’s now been removed after mere 4 months.

This is an unusual move on Apple’s part: the iPhone 4 was re-introduced as Apple’s most affordable phone in India in order to help regain some of the share Apple rapidly lost amid the onslaught of cheap Android handsets.

During the January-March quarter, Apple’s unit share in India was a CyberMedia estimated 2.4 percent versus the #1 Samsung which took 38.9 percent of handset sales…

The Times of India newspaper has the story:

Less than four months after relaunching iPhone 4, Apple decided to once again withdraw its only phone below Rs 20,000, appearing to ease up on its strategy to push volumes in emerging markets such as India to protect margins.

Apple’s average selling price of the iPhone dropped by $41 globally, down to $596.

Analysts have contributed the drop, which negatively affected margins, on the relaunch of the iPhone 4 and the 4s price cuts in emerging markets so Tim Cook & Co. may have decided to phase out the iPhone 4 as a way of preserving margins.

According to the report, local retailers won’t be placing new iPhone 4 orders. This includes three of Apple’s leading trade partners in India who told the publication that fresh supplies of the iPhone 4 have stopped in the past two weeks.

One of Apple’s partners even said that the firm could pull out the handset from other emerging markets, namely from Brazil and China. One retailer also said “a technical issue” (read: poor iOS 7 performance on the lower-specced handset) prompted Apple to withdraw the iPhone 4.

Another partner explained that the iPhone 4 “had served its purpose in India” as it helped double the consumer base of iPhones.

The off-contract iPhone 4 cost below Rs 20,000, or about $330.

The iPhone 4s is now Apple’s best-selling handset in India, partly thanks to a Rs 7,500 ($125) buyback offer last month that has helped reduce the gap with the iPhone 4 to Rs 3,000, or approximately $50, while doubling iPhone 4s sales.

The Economic Times recently said Apple would set up small shops in larger cities in India to push some older-model iPhones and iPads, as well as some lower-end Macs.