The smartphone industry in India is evolving at a breakneck speed. One moment, there is a swelling anticipation around a new product. The next moment, it is paving the way for a bigger, better feature-led innovation to captivate people’s imagination. The biggest shift in innovation and features is evident in the entry and mid-budget smartphone segments. Here, consumer demand is heavy, fast-changing and setting the trend for the future.
The consumers of these segments want premium features on their mobile phones at an affordable price point. These days, there’s a plethora of OTT content on offer due to cheap data. This has led to an increasing demand for larger screens that can cater to a great viewing experience. This is followed by a demand for superior camera and video experience.
An evolving market
In 2019, consumers saw the emergence of revolutionizing features that instantly became trends for the future. These include the dot-notch display with incredibly high screen-to-body ratio, AI-driven triple cameras, large batteries with power saving technology and more. But, in this fast evolving work, such features are already being considered a passé.
India can be broadly divided into two demographics. One part belongs to the urban, affluent and highly competitive market comprising 40 percent of the population. The second part belongs to rest 60 percent of the population. These middle-class people, with their growing appetite for modern amenities and opportunities, is representative of the ‘New Bharat’. They are the first-time smartphone buyers and the ones who seek to switch from feature to smartphones.
The young and the restless of this Middle India is on the verge of transformation. They are aspiring, value-seeking, who are shaping India’s consumption-based economy. The approximate 123 million households (that comprise these markets) are expected to drive demand and therefore, the rapid evolution of the smartphone industry in the country.
In the last few years, the country witnessed a paradigm shift from feature phones to smartphones. The leading phone makers, realizing the potential of the non-metros that are fast catching up with the metropolitan cities in terms of usage habits, internet usage, started bolstering their position in the entry level and mid-budget segment. This has led to a lot of movement in the segment.
Catering to this market
To cater to their aspirations, the players started introducing phones that are laden with almost flagship features but aggressively priced. This business phenomenon revolutionized the smartphone market of India and is expected to continue doing so. In fact, around 43 percent of the total smartphone sales come from the Rs 5,000-10,000 segment. Going forward, this segment is expected to deliver a maximum contribution to smartphone sales in 2020 as well.
In the coming year and beyond, activities in these segments are likely to become even more intense with players competing for a bigger pie. There will be a flurry of launches at the very beginning of 2020 with the momentum sustaining itself through the year. Smartphone makers will look to strengthen their line-ups for the segments with industry-leading innovations and feature-packed products. In other words, there will be a strong intent on part of the leading smartphone players to disrupt the entry level and mid-budget market segments.
Budget smartphone trends in 2020 and beyond
Of these disruptive features that will set the trend for the future in these categories, the foremost will be the smartphone screen. As per research, smartphones for users will become their modern-day televisions. Keeping that in mind, upcoming smartphones will feature large, immersive screens. We are likely to see 6.5-inch screens as the new normal. Moreover, AMOLED HD displays will become more affordable and widely available in budget segment. These displays will offer users an unfettered outdoor viewing of their favorite movies and shows.
The consumers will also want their smartphones to be an extension of their personality. Therefore, expect the phones to fit into the contemporary world of modern design. In keeping with this philosophy, future smartphones are going to define the category with an increasing screen-to-body ratio, almost bezel-less design and a fluid, flowing display with a shrinking notch. It is further expected that the aesthetic factor will lead to the uptake of the pop-up or punch-hole camera concept to introduce an all-screen design that is currently available only for the privileged.
The next wave of revolution will also upend the current trends in charging and battery capability and, of course, in the camera department. The entry level and the mid-budget segments will see fast charging and quadruple camera setup to take over the market.
For consumers, as smartphone is becoming their “one-device-for-all”, timeshare with their smartphone is also increasing. Hence larger batteries that can run their device through the day and fast charging are becoming a necessity. To match their fact paced lifestyle, a battery that will ensure their phones are up and running in a matter of minutes will go a long way in swaying product preference. Naturally, leading phone makers will put greater focus on these matters and pave the way for 6,000mAh capacity batteries and fast USB-C charging.
The AI-enabled, large megapixel quad camera with the ability to provide DSLR-like holistic photographic experience will become the defining factor that will make or break brands.
Beyond smartphone features
Beyond the features, another aspect that will drive smartphone uptake will be the marketing strategy. Many companies are launching their products on the online platforms. But it will be the optimal mix of online and offline channels that will determine which smartphone player can reign supreme in these segments. Because, for these categories, the brick and mortar stores will continue to hold relevance in India. As per industry reports, the offline channel will comprise almost 60 percent of the total smartphone market in the country.
On the back of the aforementioned trends, the new year is affirmatively going to be an exciting time for non-metro population. India’s smartphone market is set to further proliferate with fresh new trends that will up the game in the affordable segment. Some will emerge from the trends of the recent past while others will pioneer.
The article is written by Arijeet Talapatra, CEO TRANSSION India