India

MediaTek and Jio are working on an Android Go smartphone

A more powerful JioPhone!

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Semiconductor company MediaTek has announced that it is working with Reliance Jio on an entry-level Android Oreo Go Edition 4G smartphone.

The new smartphone is expected to sit alongside the JioPhone, which was launched in India last July with an effective price of INR 1,500 (US$ 24). MediaTek General Manager (Wireless Communications BU) TL Lee said the devices are expected to be rolled out in the first quarter of the year.

Unfortunately, details about the soon-to-come device are still relatively few since no design features or specifications were provided for the handset. On MediaTek’s side, the MT6739 and MT6580 chipsets are the latest ones to support the Android Go platform. The chipmaker had announced its collaboration with Google for supporting Android Oreo (Go Edition) last month and stated that the first Android Oreo (Go edition) smartphones powered by MediaTek processors will be launched in global markets by the first quarter of this year.

Jio isn’t the only company to have set its eyes on Android Go in India. In the beginning of January, domestic player Micromax too had announced plans of launching Bharat Go, an entry-level device running on the Android Go platform. Even Nokia is reportedly working on an Android Go device; the Nokia 1 is expected to be launched at MWC 2018.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Android Go is a stripped-down version of Android One with a re-packaged set of apps and features with Android at its core — but for entry level devices. It was first announced at Google I/O 2017, as a special configuration of Android Oreo (Android 8.1 onward) for devices with less than 1GB of RAM. It was formally given a go-ahead by the company in December 2017 during its Google for India event.

Google has re-worked on almost its entire suite of apps, including Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Play, and more for Android Go even as more and more developers are lending their support for the platform.

Jio’s efforts to target some 500 million of the feature phone users that are to yet migrate to smartphones due to reasons of cost and use cases have started paying off slowly. According to a recent Counterpoint study, Jio led the feature phone market in Indian in the fourth quarter of the 2017. The JioPhone captured a 27 percent market share in terms of shipment.

The JioPhone has been in very high demand because of the combined offers on data and voice that come along with it. The company has been known to subsidize the hardware costs to boost sales, which in turn are paid off via telecom services.

India

How Chinese vendors have taken over the Indian market

Market share has been grabbed but can they sustain it?

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A few years back, the most prominent smartphone companies in India included Micromax, Karbonn, Sony, HTC, and obviously, Samsung. It was a healthy mix of a few homegrown companies along with a blend of various manufacturers from diverse backgrounds. Each had its unique selling point and the market was at a nascent stage.

Fast forward to 2018, the dynamics have completely changed. Except for Samsung, all other companies listed above are almost non-existent and the complete business has been taken over by Chinese makers. According to Counterpoint Research’s Q2 2018 report, Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and Honor (Huawei) have a combined market share of 53 percent.

Domestic companies like Micromax have a very unstable presence in the region now, and all other vendors like Karbonn, Intex, and Spice have packed up. The only brand that has been able to survive this long is Samsung. But, considering the recent two quarters, even Samsung has lost a substantial share to the Chinese.

How did the newcomers manage to take over the market so rapidly, and successfully?

The base strategy is pretty similar to that of Samsung. Back in 2010, when Nokia and BlackBerry had their superiority, Samsung Mobile was a fledgling in the country. Samsung came in and filled the market with next-generation trendy products at a nominal rate. When Nokia and BlackBerry were busy competing with their QWERTY phones, Samsung was selling touchscreen phones like the Corby and Champ.

These phones appealed to the younger audience, and while Apple was busy knocking down everyone in design, Samsung was busy scaling their production. Soon, we saw their brief stint with Windows OS via the Omnia series, followed by entry in the Android ecosystem. Even with Android, Samsung continued releasing phones in every price segment: The Galaxy Star was a top-selling budget phone, the S-series had just taken off, and new devices were being launched almost every month.

In short, they filled the market with options and every type of user was targeted. The gamble paid off massively. Within a few years the old behemoths were gone and Samsung had established a brand with trust among users. The company was focusing on grabbing market share via the budget and midrange segment and simultaneously managing the top-tier S and Note series for higher margins.

This is the same strategy that the new Chinese vendors are applying. First, fill the market with trendy phones that are reasonably priced, and then expand your portfolio. A notch and glass backing are the current trends, and everyone quickly jumped on to the bandwagon.

From gradients to patterns, there are multiple options available. Want a performance-centric phone? Huawei and Xiaomi brought in high-end processors for just INR 20,000 (US$ 276). Like iPhone’s Face ID? Almost every phone comes with face unlock.

Vivo brought in the in-display fingerprint scanner before everyone else and it’s exactly the kind of innovation the end user wants. While these companies are busy expanding their portfolio, they are also careful to consider long-term goals. Huawei’s Mate and P series have been mind-boggling, and with the P20 Pro, it has managed to establish itself as a premium player.

OPPO, Vivo, and OnePlus belong to the same holding company — BBK Mobile. OnePlus leads the premium segment while OPPO and Vivo act as test beds for new concepts, like the sliding camera. Ultimately, anything earned by either of them goes to the same pocket. Xiaomi has avoided the top-tier segment until now, but with the POCO F1, it still remains unclear how they intend to establish a premium brand.

I haven’t considered Apple in this equation because the company has completely different expectations from the market. It doesn’t care about market share as long as it grabs the top 1 percent audience. Every week we see new launches happening in the country with each new product trying to take on the competitors offerings.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Chinese domination in the country will be short-lived but the statistics suggest a different story. Each of them has also confidently invested in growing their presence, this includes the operation of service centers and exclusive stores. In fact, all of them have joined the Make in India initiative to avoid import duty.

We haven’t seen Samsung get aggressive to the competition yet; they are still trying to make it through at their own pace. It will also be interesting to see how HMD Global is able to make a mark with their Nokia branded offerings in the country.

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Apple isn’t even trying to sell the new iPhones in India

The phones cost 50 percent more than the global pricing

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Apple launched the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR this week and we’re definitely excited to get our hands on them. The phones now make the edge-to-edge display and Face ID from last year’s iPhone X a standard feature. Display and battery size are the only differences between the XS and XS Max, while the XR is a slightly cheaper option that cuts corners for the camera and body.

The iPhone XS takes over the reign from iPhone X, and for the first time, Apple has discontinued the previous year’s iPhone. The iPhone XS costs the same as the X, starting at US$ 999 and the XS Max starts at US$ 1,099. The iPhone XR is quite cheaper, starting at US$ 749.

But while the prices listed above make sense for the American market, Apple has completely lost it in India. The iPhone XS starts at INR 99,900 (US$ 1,385) while the XS Max starts at INR 109,900 (US$ 1,525). The 512GB iPhone XS Max goes up all the way up to INR 144,900 (US$ 2,000). Fortunately, the original iPhone X hasn’t been totally discontinued yet; it will continue to sell until stocks last.

Let’s compare the pricing of the new iPhones with competing Android devices; Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is priced at INR 67,900 (US$ 940), the Google Pixel 2 starts at INR 61,000 (US$ 845), the LG G7+ ThinQ costs INR 39,900 (US$ 550), and lastly, the OnePlus 6 starts at INR 34,999 (US$ 485).

The difference is huge, and to establish a smoke screen, Apple has cut down prices of the previous-generation iPhones like the 6S, 7, and 8. Even after the rates are slashed, a four-year-old iPhone 6S starts at INR 29,900 (US$ 415). Why would someone want to buy an iPhone when so many alternatives are available?

Apple has been showing off the dual-SIM feature of the new XS and XS Max, but in reality, this addition is definitely not convenient for the end user. Instead of providing an actual dual-SIM tray, Apple is using an eSIM for the other connection. In India, only two carriers, Airtel and Jio, support eSIM, and the process to acquire one is tedious and exceedingly vague.

For years the Cupertino-based company has been saying it’s serious about the Indian market and wants to play a bigger role. Yes, the market is huge and the demand has been on a steady uphill for years. But, one major thing Apple forgets is the market is developing, meaning a majority of the sales happen in the budget and midrange segments.

Why are the iPhone prices in India almost 50 percent higher than their American counterparts? Firstly because India levies 20 percent import duty on mobile phones. In addition, Apple only makes the iPhone SE and 6 in India; all other models are imported from China. Secondly, the Indian rupee has consistently been falling against the US dollar for the last few months.

But even after adjusting the import duty and a weak currency, the price leaves at least a 20 percent premium margin. Keep in mind that while the US$ 999 price in the US already has a premium margin, Apple wants even more from the Indian market. The most plausible reason being the company isn’t able to scale its operations in India, and hence wants to rely on a lower volume of sales that has a higher profit margin.

I could’ve accepted this strategy from a small or medium scale company that is new to the country, but a trillion-dollar behemoth like Apple should be ready to take a hit on the pocket in the beginning. If companies like Xiaomi and OnePlus can rule the game within a few quarters, it’s no rocket science for Apple.

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India

Moto G6 Plus has finally made its way to India

Too late to the game

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Motorola unveiled the sixth-generation G-series lineup way back in April. After slogging for months, they finally rolled out the Moto G6 and G6 Play in India. The top-tier Moto G6 Plus was delayed further and has eventually made its way to the country today.

The Moto G6 Plus is priced at INR 22,499 (US$ 310) and shall be available in Deep Indigo and Nimbus exclusively via Amazon.in and Moto Hub Stores.

India is a rapidly changing market; this year has already witnessed multiple smartphone launches on a weekly basis and companies are focused on the region more than ever. Xiaomi has already launched a wide array of phones, while others like ASUS and Realme are proactively working as well. When the market dictates such dynamics, it is surprising to see Motorola being so laid back.

When compared to its two siblings, the G6 Plus has a slightly larger display, more RAM, and a faster processor. It sports a 5.93-inch Full HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 18:9. The fingerprint scanner is located below the display and also supports face unlock.

Powering it is a Snapdragon 630 SoC along with 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage that is expandable via a microSD card. On the rear sits a dual camera setup consisting of a 12-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. On the front, it sports an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies along with a soft LED flash.

The camera app supports multiple photography modes ranging from spot color, portrait mode, and selective black and white, to landmark recognition and even Google Lens integration.

The G6 Plus is backed by a 3200mAh battery that supports Motorola’s TurboPower technology via a USB-C port. Android 8.0 Oreo runs of the box along with a few nifty UI add-ons.

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