There’s no denying that smartphones have become an essential part of our lives. Despite their importance though, the smartphones themselves have largely remained the same for quite some time now. Having become a commodity business, the lack of radical innovations is quite striking.
This is evident in the flagship segment too, where despite the premium price tag, smartphones have looked and felt largely the same. What has also not helped is the lack of choices or the duopoly of Apple and Samsung. Essentially, when you plan to buy a smartphone by paying over Rs 50,000, you will invariably have to consider an iPhone or a Samsung Android smartphone.
Need for change
To break this duopoly, the need is for more smartphone companies to step up. While certain Chinese players are seen slowly trying to enter this segment, the onus actually should rest on brands that have been there and done that.
The likes of LG, Sony, BlackBerry and Nokia come to mind when you think about premium brands. They not only boast recall value, but also the technical expertise and business acumen to make it in this competitive space. If you think about it, most of these companies are anyway indirectly involved in the flagship space. Sony is known to make and distribute camera sensors, while LG is big on displays. In fact, if recent reports are to be believed, LG will be providing displays for next-generation Apple iPhones.
The problem with these brands though is that in recent years they have lacked a killer device that would stand out and be counted among the greats. This scenario is reiterated by Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, who says, “We have seen in the past Sony, HTC, LG coming up with series of flagship phones but missed a successful, hero flagship phones to build strong sales momentum.”
The smartphones Sony has launched do come with a couple of standout features, but the overall package tends to bring them down. BlackBerry smartphones recently have been overpriced as well. LG’s devices similarly tend to be overpriced too during launch, and take a few weeks to come down to what seems acceptable. Another big let down on LG smartphones is the frustrating UI. That said, LG is reportedly rebranding its flagship G series, and this could also mean a big change in strategy too. All eyes are also on HMD Global to see how it fares when launching a flagship Nokia smartphone.
More is always better
The return of these brands to the limelight will result in more than just smartphone choices for buyers. In the long run, the increase in competition will push companies more to innovate.
For buyers, the increased competition will also result in a positive impact on the price tags, which have recently gone through the roof. When you think of ultra-premium devices, the likes of Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Apple iPhone X come to mind. Of these, one smartphone’s price tag has already crossed an unbelievable Rs 100,000 mark. More choice for buyers is likely to push companies to aggressively price their devices. This trend is quite visible in affordable to mid-range price segments.
The good thing is that there is enough space for newer (and older) brands to enter this premium segment and make their mark. “There are no limitations on number of smartphone players in the market or in the flagship segment,” Gupta adds. “Many emerging/Chinese players are moving up the chain launching more and more premium smartphone models. Success of flagship smartphone is crucial as it helps drive overall sales and improve brand visibility.”
As consumers, what would you rather want to see – the emergence of new brands or the return of a known brand? Let us know in our comments section below.