India

Xiaomi Mi LED TV 4 with 4K HDR launched in India

Xiaomi is further widening its product array in India

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Xiaomi has finally taken its first steps into India’s smart television space with the launch of the Mi LED Smart TV 4. India is the first country to get this device outside its home country, China. The company is touting this to be the world’s thinnest LED TV and that it has been customized for Indian users.

The television set is just 4.9mm thick and features a frame-less design which you might be familiar with if you’ve seen the Mi Mix 2. The design is reminiscent of the smartphone and looks sleek and elegant. Xiaomi claims it’s 38 percent slimmer than the Samsung Galaxy S8.

The display itself is 55 inches in size and supports 4K and HDR content, a rarity for televisions in this price range. It has Dolby+ DTS Cinema Sound and has Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming TV shows and movies. The TV has a remote which is very much similar to the Amazon Fire Stick remote and can control the television and any Indian DTH set-top box.

Xiaomi’s new Mi LED Smart TV runs the Android-based PatchWall UI that learns with usage over time and offers personalized recommendations based on the user’s viewing patterns. Xiaomi has over 10 content partners that will provide both local and international content in over 15 regional languages. The list includes the likes of Alt Balaji, Voot, SunNxt, Hungama Play, and Hotstar, among others. The bigger focus has been on personalization and curation.

The TV is powered by a quad-core 64-bit TV processor coupled with 2GB RAM and 8GB memory. As for connectivity, you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, three HDMI ports, two USB ports, AV-in, Ethernet, and S/PDIF audio output. The company is also touting the presence of Dolby+ DTS Cinema Audio Quality on the Mi TV 4, with two 8W duct inverted speakers.

There are some limited period offers with the Xiaomi Mi TV, like three months of free subscription to both Sony Liv and Hungama Play. The Mi IR cable, which makes it possible for the TV to integrate the set-top content into the PatchWall, costing INR 299 is also free. And finally, Xiaomi is offering free on-site installation with the Mi LED Smart TV 4.

The Mi LED Smart TV 4 (55-inch) will be available on February 22 at Mi.com and Flipkart for a price of INR 39,999 (US$ 625).

India

Motorola One Power launches with a huge battery

The Mi A2 has some serious competition now

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After launching the Moto G6 series in India, Motorola has now announced the availability of the One Power in the country. Unlike the G6 series, the company isn’t launching the phone months after the global unveiling and is banking on the phone to be a hot sell.

The company has also reiterated that they have long-term goals in the country and are now making the new One Power completely in India, under the Make in India initiative. Motorola has more than 700 Moto Hubs in the country and is expanding their offline reach to more than 30,000 counters or retailers.

The Motorola One Power is priced at INR 15,999 (US$ 220) and will be exclusively available via Flipkart. It will be on sale starting October 5, going up against the Nokia 6.1 Plus and Xiaomi Mi A2.

The phone has a 6.2-inch LCD Full HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 19:9. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 636 SoC along with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage. It supports a microSD card for expanding storage and features a fingerprint scanner on the back.

The back has a dual-camera setup — a 16-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor that are capable of shooting pictures with a bokeh effect. The front has a 12-megapixel sensor that is housed in the notch along with the earpiece and sensor array.

Motorola has closely partnered with Google via the Android One program, hence all its phone will be receiving monthly security updates for the next three years. This will also be among the first devices to receive the Android Pie update and the company is confident it will be pushing it out by the end of October.

The battery is another unique selling point, the One Power has a huge 4850mAh battery that supports Motorola’s TurboPower charging technology. The company says it can deliver six hours of moderate usage on just 15 minutes of charging.

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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’s sub-brand) 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 into 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 focused 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 their portfolio. A notch and glass backing are the current trends, and everyone quickly jumped on 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.

Apples and oranges

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 one 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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