A couple of years back Indian smartphone market was a different sort of mess. It was still as aggressive and boisterous as it is today, and though some might find it hard to believe, there were comparable number of launches even before Motorola, Chinese manufacturers, flash sales or online exclusives poured in. The focus of tech manufacturers, tech consumers and tech journalists has however consistently evolved.
There was a time when we used to religiously dig and cover Micromax leaks and ritualistic piece by piece revelation of upcoming Canvas series flagships and then there was a time when ‘sold out in X seconds’ was flashed all over the internet, but as one might expect, trends keeps changing, interests keep waning.
Indian Smartphone Market Is Unique
If you merely look at sales volume, feature phones still account for 50 percent of market share. As Micromax CEO Vineet Taneja pointed out at Canvas Xpress 4G launch event, this is indeed a huge opportunity for smartphone companies. This also implies that many millions will be using smartphones for the first time. Also, offline market is still considerably bigger than online market, and people are more comfortable buying offline, even when you can clearly score better ‘Value for money’ smartphones from online retailers.
Several users keep tabs on ever-changing smartphone technology, but still, most first time buyers understandably don’t bother and solely rely on ‘Specs’ before they make-up their mind.
Couple of years back manufacturers were solely competing on specs. It was a routine to see an ‘HD Display phone’ or ‘Quad Core phone’ show up in under 10K category. At least one particular specification used to be eye-catching good and almost all of them compromised on battery backup.
Fast-forward to late 2015 and all those marketing terms are associated with dirt-cheap entry level devices too.
Specs no longer qualify as compelling
Manufacturers have been harping specs for a very long time and naturally, if users get an HD display in phones like Yu Yunique, Xolo Era HD, etc for as low as 5,000 INR, they will be bound to inquire more about the display than mere pixel density.
Also, there has been a growth in number of second time buyers, and this lot is far less gullible to such hollow enticements. They are equipped with better knowledge of their practical usage requirement and are willing to spend more (as per Google study).
‘Specs don’t paint a complete picture’ argument has long been a well-established fact in geek community, but we are finally seeing the same sentiment resonate very strongly among end consumers (though it is still common to spot someone bashing iPhone for just 2 cores or maybe someone going gaga over 3GB RAM). Abundance of low-cost devices posing with towering spec-sheets post Chinese intrusion have had a major role to play in changing this mindset.
“aaj kal toh sab mein hi 13MP aaraha hai” is what I have heard on more than one ocassion.
Manufacturers shift focus from Specs to Design
In Indian smartphone space, 2015 is the year where focus shifts from specs to design. Whether it’s Yu’s fixation on using a metal frame in budget Yuphoria or OnePlus launching a revamped ‘One’ as visually stunning OnePlus X in the mid-range segment (along with a limited edition ceramic variant that it claims looks even better) or the notable Samsung Galaxy S6/ S6 Edge overhaul at the high end of the spectrum – manufacturers have accepted design as the primary focus, as that is something which instantly draws favorable consumer reaction.
The specs song has finally become hackneyed, and today better informed consumers thoroughly understand the futility of ‘13MP’ and ‘Octa-Core’ claims. Prolong attention on raw, bland specifications has culminated in a hunger for meaningful user experience, and we expect smart smartphone makers will stick to the new melody for some time to come.
Maybe they will improve things on the software side in 2016
Software is important part of user experience and something that largely remains neglected. We are happy with way things are on stock Android front, but the altered user-end product is pretty dismal.
The numerous smartphones we test (especially those from low-key Chinese entrants and domestic brands) has lead us to believe that it isn’t as easy to deliver a functional custom Android UI that is visually appealing and also enhances usability, as one might expect. Maybe that’s the reasons geek prefer uninterrupted stock Android symphony relatively free from vexing software glitches.
Developing and evolving a software for different sets of hardware is time and resource consuming, which is why we mostly see manufacturers altering launcher app and then adding a set of pre-loaded apps to distinguish themselves. Perhaps 2016 will see focus shift towards a more meaningful software.
We would surely like to know your opinion on the subject. Let us know what you think in the comment section below.