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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Smartphone war hots up

Vivek Sinha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 01, 2013
First Published: 21:36 IST(1/2/2013) | Last Updated: 01:41 IST(2/2/2013)

A fortnight ago, when 26-year-old car salesman Suneet Singh walked into a neighbouring mobile handset store with a desire to change his old feature phone for a new one, the sales executive talked him into buying a smartphone instead.

Singh is happy he shelled out extra money for the smartphone - an Internet-enabled handset that allows users to download independent applications (apps). Singh is not alone.

He is among the millions who are graduating to smartphones as the device turns cheaper - and loaded with new features that tempt the buyer.

But there is a market shootout as brands big and small jostle to grab consumer attention to sell a product whose price and quality cover a wide range.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/2/02_02_13-buss25.jpg

India has more than 900 million mobile phone connections. While 178 million mobile phones were sold in 2012, only 15.4 million of them were smartphones - leaving the ground open for an explosion in smartphones as users go beyond the entry-level handsets.

"I had budgeted Rs.5,000 for a new handset, but for an extra two thousand rupees a decent smartphone was on offer. I therefore decided to buy one," said Singh gleefully.

Industry research firm IDC expects a 70% jump in the sales growth of smartphones in India.

"The price difference between a low-end smartphone and a feature phone has narrowed to the extent that for an extra thousand rupees a customer feels it is better to opt for a smartphone," said Manasi Yadav, senior market analyst at IDC.

About a year ago Rajan Anandan, Google's India managing director had remarked that very cheap smartphones coupled with very cheap data plans could make country's market to explode. Such forecasts are now coming true.

Over the last 12 months smartphones that run on Google's Andorid operating system (which has dramatically lowered manufacturing costs) have stormed the market.

And South Korean giant Samsung has made the most from the Android revolution.

Over the last year Samsung has successfully created quite a buzz by offering a whole range of smartphones in the Galaxy series that range from sub-Rs.10,000 to premium Galaxy series based on the Android OS.

"Samsung believes in flooding the market with an array of smartphone choices for the customer. This is working in their favour," said Yadav.

Nokia, once the undisputed market leader in handsets also made a comeback effort last year when it teamed up with Microsoft to offer Windows-based smartphones.

Notably, both Apple and BlackBerry that appeared to have lost ground in India as sales dipped have woken up to India's booming smartphone market.

While Apple has now spruced up its distribution business by making attractive offers such as easy installments to buy iPhones, the Canadian BlackBerry launched a completely refurbished BB10 a couple of days ago.

Be it global biggies such as Nokia, Sony, LG, and HTC or the humble upstart brands such as Micromax, Lava, Spice and Karbonn, all have chalked out aggressive expansion plans. The year 2013 will be exciting.


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