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Smart is as smart does

Why did you buy that particular premium-priced smartphone brand? How did you select that specific model? Will you change your smartphone after 12 months? Smartphones seem the natural choice for consumers, going forward. Anita Sharan writes.Getting smart on the go

business Updated: Jun 03, 2013 01:59 IST
Anita Sharan

Jaipur-based homemaker Ayushi Nathani, 28, went shopping last month for a smartphone with four friends. They bought an Apple iPhone 5 each. “It’s a
nice phone to flaunt. It makes me feel good. Besides, it’s the latest technology,” Nathani said.

Her husband Sparsh, who paid upwards of Rs. 42,000 for her smartphone, explained: “In Jaipur, the iPhone is a huge status symbol.”

In Mumbai, when IT executive Ritwik Sinha went smartphone shopping a year ago, he had a couple of premium options shortlisted, after thorough research. He finally settled for a Samsung Galaxy Note 1. “The screen size, HD resolution, processing speed and battery life were big considerations. I had already decided on Android. The stylus tipped my final decision,” Sinha said, adding that he bought the phone from the outlet offering the best price.

Advertising executive Rashmi Sudarshan plans to check out the latest Sony Xperia Z after seeing a TV commercial with the visual of a dusty Sony Xperia Z being washed off before it is held up to display clear, rich pictures on a big screen.

Consumer research for smartphone buying –especially high end, Rs. 20,000-50,000 devices –supports these behaviour traits.

Nitin Chowdhary, VP and business head, PrecisionMatch, an audience data and analytics company, said of the premium-end smartphone buyer, that his initial choice may be on a specific feature, followed by three-four others. Then he goes comparison shopping via online comparison shopping sites.

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“Price comparisons are getting big – there are currently around 11 million people on price comparison websites. Beyond that, while the savvy smartphone buyer will look at functions, for others the social influence counts. There is pressure on young men and women to upgrade to cool smartphones,” Chowdhary said.

Piyul Mukherjee, director and co-founder, Quipper Research, said, “In India’s socio-economic pyramid, the middle is beginning to bulge as earnings and aspirations rise. The more the middle bulges, there will be more people who want to be a cut above. Being the first in the peer group to be a cut above is the biggest driver in upgrading. The smartphone brand, model and premiumness manifest that.”

And yet the smartphone is personal, Vineet Taneja, country head – mobile, Samsung India, said. “It’s a combination of features and what people can do with them. Equally critical is emotion – how I feel about my smartphone.”

Nokia’s consumer feedback supports the emotional aspect. “In choosing a device, also very important is the sense of quality – the handset should ‘feel’ premium,” said Vipul Mehrotra, director – smart devices, Nokia (India, Middle East and Asia). “At the high end, the consumer is very brand-conscious.”

He added that in consumer segmentation, it would be the technology enthusiasts – an important influencer group – who research the smartphones online the most.

Faisal Siddiqui, country head, HTC India, observed: “The Rs. 20,000-plus smartphone consumers do the maximum amount of research.” HTC is a smartphone-only brand that has just launched its high end flagship, HTC One, in India.

Taneja said the technology enthusiasts constituted the majority of high end smartphone buyers. Citing research, he added that consumers visit a retail outlet three-four times before buying, accompanied by at least one other person. Industry sources added that the smartphone obsolescence cycle is currently 12 months.

The recent introduction of EMIs on mobile phone brands has changed the dynamics of the high end smartphone market. Tarun Pathak, analyst, mobile devices, CyberMedia Research, said: “In unit shipments, the Rs. 20,000-plus handsets market increased by 53.2% in the first quarter of 2013, compared to the previous quarter. High-end phones were made affordable with the launch of buyback and EMI schemes, accompanied by aggressive visibility campaigns. The Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos, Samsung Note 2, Apple iPhone 5, Apple iPhone 4, Nokia Lumia 920 and BlackBerry Z10 saw the maximum surge in unit sales.”

According to the Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights report, average Indian smartphone users spend 2.5 hours a day on their devices, with 72% of that time spent on gaming, entertainment apps and the internet, and just 28% on calls and text messaging. Therefore, smartphones seem the natural choice for consumers, going forward.