The first-ever India Mobile Congress 2017 has kicked off at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. Interestingly, the maiden event witnessed some of the global technology leaders sharing their opinion and participation in the ‘India 2020-Digital India’ vision. Amongst smartphone and technology exhibitors is MediaTek, which announced its new Helio P23 and MT6739 processors for the mid-to-entry level category. On the sidelines of the launch, BGR India spoke with MediaTek’s Finbarr Moynihan, General Manager, Corporate Sales International to learn more about the company’s observations about the Indian market, the current market trends, and MediaTek’s debut at IMC 2017.
MediaTek is among the dominant players when it comes to the chipset business. However, we now see smartphones manufacturers building their own in-house chipsets. Does it mean the position of standalone chipset makers is threatened?
Smartphone makers turning into chipset makers
“The competition has certainly become well-defined. At the super high end, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei, all the three have in-house capabilities for their own chipsets. I think there is still a large part of the ecosystem, which is shared by MediaTek and Qualcomm. You will see most of the companies opting for either of the two. Competition is life, we don’t want to see only one source. It is healthy for the industry anyway,” says Moynihan.
“In India, our market share is somewhere between 30-35 percent. It has been fairly steady over the years. Incidentally, the share in India is almost at par with our global share,” he further added.
Indian market and the ‘new premium’ category
We are 10 years since the launch of the first iPhone, and even as there continues to be newer smartphones in the market, the changes we see are only incremental. The true innovation, as Moynihan says, lies in the mid-range segment.
“There has been a misconception about India being the entry-only market. It is totally not true. We see two big trends in the market in India, one is the preferred premium segment. We just announce the Helio P23. These processors try to help build what we call the ‘new premium’ category. Globally there are 1.5 billion smartphones made every year. The growth has slowed down. We see global flagship smartphones, but they become more and more incremental in terms of upgrades. However, we see the innovation happening in the mid-range segment. In many cases the feature gap is closing. We wouldn’t say the feature gap has closed but from a user experience, be it camera, memory, data connectivity, or other such features, the delta between super flagship devices and the ‘new premium devices’ is narrowing.”
“Given the recent rise of 4G adoption in India, companies like Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, Gionee, and Lenovo have really kind of played into this segment. It is neither super high-end, nor super low-end, and that’s the important part of the market in India.” RELATED: MediaTek MT6739 quad-core SoC unveiled at India Mobile Congress 2017
Although there is a rise in smartphones, there still remains a chunk of users which are on feature phones. Acknowledging the gap, Moynihan says, “There’s still a large part of the population which uses 2G feature phones and there’s still a large part which is not on smartphones or 3G or 4G. So the entry part of the market remains a key focus. There we are focusing on the entry Android devices. We also launched the MT6789, which supports 18:9 display. So even in the entry segment, the chipset supports a larger display, the platform also supports our new dual VoLTE capabilities. Again, in a market like India, dual SIM is important. Now you have support for VoLTE support for both SIMs.”
Dual camera trend to continue, AI to be next big focus
From the consumers’ perspective, competition keeps shifting between brands and features. This year there has been an excessive focus on dual-camera functionalities, thinner bodies, and lesser bezels around the display. According to MediaTek, the trend is going to continue.
“Camera trend is one thing which is not going to change. The trend of higher capability, better performance, dual camera, is certainly migrating down to lower-priced devices. This is likely to continue. There will be a lot more focus on the features in the coming year.” ALSO READ: Google says enabling regional languages will boost India’s digital economy
“The bezel-less and the 18:9 display is another trend. I think this will also trickle down very quickly to other tiers just like other trends. Memory and CPU, and technology will keep moving forward. But I think there is much more focus coming from areas which truly impact consumer experience. So, camera performance is directly tied to user experience while a larger display is also tied to web browsing and gaming. Fast charging is another trend right now.”
Another trend, which MediaTek says is now picking pace is the intersection of artificial intelligence and machine learning with smartphones. “We have seen it through voice assistants. But as we start adding more sensors, more cameras, you will see there will be more innovation in camera processing, and there will be a new bunch of applications and use cases. That’s what the long-term trend will be.”
Even as manufacturers such as Samsung and Xiaomi are introducing over and above 6-inch displays, Moynihan says the ideal size of the display continues to be between 5-5.5 inches. This is also dependant on the design aspect as well. From design and technology point of view, 6-inch display size is cumbersome to use.
On Reliance JioPhone
On one hand, manufacturers are bringing renewed features to smartphones, while on the other hand, companies such as Reliance Jio are bringing smartphone-like capabilities to a feature phone, all at throwaway prices. The technological divide within India is huge, but even bigger is the gap between feature phone users and smartphone users. This gap accentuates the divide between India and ‘Bharat’.
It might seem like an easy deal for tech giants to venture into other feature phone segment. But given the essential role chipmakers play in help sustaining a business model, the challenge is larger. MediaTek, for one, does not plan to shift focus from smartphones where the larger action is taking place. DON’T MISS: LG launches ‘K7i’ with ‘mosquito away’ feature in India for Rs 7,990
“It is not an area we are focusing on. Right now, we are keeping our focus on the Android smartphone. We think the real 4G experience, the real way to experience data is on a smartphone device with a touch screen, larger display, rather than a feature phone form factor. Ultimately, it is limited to a certain size, doesn’t have the same kind of applications. We are at the moment staying with the smartphone market, bringing in necessary features. We will keep an eye on the feature phone market as it has just started but we haven’t announced any platform or support, solutions for the feature phone devices,” Moynihan concludes.