The business of mobile phones is no longer about machines that help you talk and message. Fashion is meeting technology in a big way as handsets get cheaper while features get slicker and smarter.
Designer labels and expensive price tags are here to separate the snob value from the mob value in handsets and wearable USB drives, which are now fashion accessories for some.
A handset worth almost Rs 70,000 is selling hundreds of units in a so-called 'price sensitive' market like India. Samsung and Danish company Bang & Olufsen (B&O) came together last year and launched a handset called Serene that attracted many eyeballs with its peculiar design. The handset certainly is not the easiest to use, but carries a high premium value.
It is retailing across exclusive B&O stores across India (Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi) at Rs 69,000 and has already sold over 400 units. The next version of the handset, dubbed the Serenata, is already in the pipeline.
Samsung and leading fashion house Georgio Armani unveiled the Armani-Samsung luxury phone at Milan. The handset would be available across Europe by November this year. The Porsche P9521 phone too is expected to be launched in Dubai and UK this year. Globally, the Vertu Ascent Ferrari 60 handset with Ferrari branding sells for around Rs 11 lakh.
The most anticipated launch in India this year would have to be that of LG Prada. The handset is officially expected to hit Indian shores by November. It is largely the Prada tag that will get people to it even if that means shelling out anywhere between Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000. The luxury segment in India is growing very fast and tells on the handsets.
"According to our estimates, 1.8 million households in India have an annual income of over 45 lakh," said Sushmita Balasubramaniam, Associate Vice President at retail consultant Technopak India. "Almost 65-70 per cent of the people belonging to this category change their handsets every year and a large number amongst these change it every three months," she adds.
Last year, Motorola made a fashion statement with its Moto D&G, aided by Italian designer duo Dolce & Gabbana. It was basically a touched up version of the mid-end handset, the Moto Razr V3i, but carried a Rs 24,000 price tag, Rs 10,000 above its mid-segment V3i.