Indian Smartphone Market Trends in 2018

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As the year 2018 is coming to an end, let glance back and see how the market fared this year so that we can get a fair idea how it is going to perform in 2019.

India has been an attractive target for the smartphone manufacturers with the country being the second largest smartphone market and among the fastest growing smartphone markets globally. Last year we saw a total shipment of 124 million smartphone units, and registering an annual growth of 14%.

This being the story, it is always interesting to follow up with the Indian smartphone trends as each year the country witnesses fresh advancements.

Before we dive into the smartphone trends of 2018, let’s look further back at a few highlights the smartphone market saw in 2017:

  • China-based vendors further strengthened their positions in the smartphone category with the collective share of China-based vendors reaching 53% in 2017 from 34% a year ago.
  • The Indian telecom operator Reliance Jio shipped huge shipments of 4G-enabled feature phones taking the leadership position on its maiden quarter in this category. This resulted in a total of 164 million feature phone shipments in 2017 from 140 million a year ago.
  • In terms of features the 18:9 aspect ratio and 120 Hz smartphone screens became more common among a few high-end devices pleasing game lovers.
  • iPhone and One Plus with the release of iPhone X and One Plus 5T respectively, introduced to the masses the technology of face detection.

Another year gone by, now in 2018 we have witnessed many groundbreaking trends and adoptions in the smartphone industry. The smartphone market in India is scaling up day-by-day and has seen a massive growth this year too. Some great trends of 2018 are discussed below.

 In-screen fingerprint sensors

The in-screen fingerprint sensors as a technology-advancement have replaced the button that is required to sense the fingerprint before unlocking the device. Towards the end of 2017, Synaptics announced that it had cracked the problem of embedding fingerprint sensors into displays and was mass-producing the tech for Vivo.

That makes Vivo the first smartphone manufacturer to have in-screen fingerprint scanners on its mobile devices. And right now though limited number of devices like the latest iPhone and OnePlus 6T have this feature, this will go to mainstream pretty soon. However, the technology is still  nascent and smartphone manufacturers are testing the efficiency of this feature and the feasibility of this option on their devices. A constraint here would be the fact that in-screen fingerprint sensors can only be embedded on OLED screens.

However, Japan Display Inc (JDI) has recently announced a new breakthrough in the race. The company claims that it has achieved a transparent fingerprint scanner that is built right into the glass of a display instead of the traditional under-the-display fingerprint scanner technology that most other companies have been working on.

The new scanner technology is an extension of JDI’s existing capacitive touch-technology called the Pixel Eyes, which integrates the technology into LCD panels. Year 2019 can expect to see this trend kicks off and becomes available to the masses.

Bezel less phones

Bezel is the outside frame of a device, be it a monitor, smartphone or any device. In simple terms, bezel for a phone is that padding that surrounds the screen space in devices.

Product developers are the ones who evaluate the various factors and decide on the dimensions of the width. This is an infinity era and the same applies to the bezels of smartphones too. Newer device designs have extremely narrow bezels. A few examples for the same include the Dell XPS, iPad. Some of the latest devices like the Xiaomi mix and Doogee mix are bezelless.

All said, the costs seem to still match with the price sensitive economy. The Xiaomi phones are ranged at INR 20,000 to 30,000. This fact boosts the trend a little more and in 2018 we have seen that many smartphone manufacturers  releasing bezelless or narrowed down bezel phones.

Dual camera–front and back–devices

With iPhone releasing its 7+ with a dual camera, the concept of dual camera gained popularity. So, what exactly is the benefit of having a dual camera? Besides letting users add an optical zoom to the phone, a good quality secondary camera can help them get a sharper image with finer focus on minute details, shoot a subject with a shallow depth of field to add more emphasis.

Sometimes the dual cameras also come with features to make wide angle photography possible even with phone cameras. The dual front cameras are extremely handy to take group selfies, also known as ‘wefies’ because of the wide angle feature.

While it is true that the dual camera system does offer excellent photography options, a lot of other factors are important in determining the effectiveness of the dual camera. Some of these factors include the size of the sensor, pixel and aperture.

The features like dual front and back camera devices are the new trend that hit the market in 2018, needless to say, increases the cost of phone make.

Face detection for unlock

While a few smartphone manufacturers are working on the in-screen fingerprint sensor technology, Apple worked on the face-detection technology and proved successful with its iPhone X which has the face-detection feature for unlocking the device incorporated.

Among the Android devices, the One Plus 5T held the face-detection feature. An interesting thing to note here is that, unlike Face ID on the iPhone X, One Plus 5T’s face-unlock feature only uses a regular selfie camera, instead of a fancy infrared depth-mapping camera. That makes a facial scan faster, and crucially, one that’s only based on software.

The lack of dedicated hardware also means that OnePlus can bring Face-Unlock to older devices, and that’s exactly what it plans to do, following customer feedback. In 2018, several other Android smartphone manufacturers too incorporated the Face ID feature in their phones.

Both, in-screen fingerprint sensor and face-detection features are a big hit, but manufacturers and smartphone brands followed the trail of the fingerprint for unlock feature because of its effectiveness.

Internet of things and smartphones

 Internet of Things (IoT) is the newest thing that’s picking up in the tech space. With the current state of matter, smartphones are being used to control all the smart devices. Be it a smart weighing scale, small home appliances or smart wearable, there comes an app with each of these smart devices to carry on the functionality.

With a number of smart devices hit the markets in 2018, a lot of players who provide apps that are installed on the smartphones also played a crucial role. Consumers being aware of these are now looking at smartphones with a preferred memory capacity of 64GB, with 4 GB RAM.

While smartphone manufacturers are working on making this a reality, app developers like AppBrowzer are rolling out app aggregator platforms to let users use apps without having to download them so that consumers can prioritize and install only those apps that require to be installed.

Google also came out with ‘Instant apps’ to solve the same problem. However, apps like appbrowzer make it more convenient to store all apps in one window for easy access and convenience.

Bundling offers

With Reliance Jio hitting the Indian market with its low cost 4G feature phone devices and SIM card plans, the other OEM players in the space are now more actively looking to partner with smartphone manufacturers to roll out bundled offers that allow them to sell the phone + connectivity at an affordable price and compete against the significant competitor. There is obviously the doubt that this might weaken the brand image of smartphone manufacturers, but that doubt voids itself with the promising volumes that come and the fact that we’re looking at bundling offers to compete with 4G feature phones.

eSims

An eSIM is a programmable SIM card that can be permanently fitted into devices at the time of manufacturing. Incorporating an eSim in mobile devices will definitely bring in more convenience for the smartphone users, just like the removal of the earphone jack in iPhone gave the manufacturers the scope to improve on several other aspects like improving the battery, making it easier in terms of making the phone water resistant etc.

eSIMs will also bring in great advantages to both, the users and the manufacturers. One significant advantage that can be realized is that, through eSIMs, one can switch between network carriers without having to go to the physical store to get the SIM card.

The process can be initiated according to the norms of the network carrier and the transition can be carried out on an app itself. The talks of eSIMs became extensive in 2018 and 2019 should positively see more smartphones facilitating the same.

Market:

When it comes to smartphones, India is a dynamic market. There is a huge potential with a large chunk of still untapped customers across platforms. With rural areas forming the major portion, the buyers in the lower-tier cities remains the key attraction for smartphone manufacturers to explore the growth trajectory in India.

While it is true that India is a price-sensitive mobile market, it is also essential to know that the country is growing at a rapid pace and the spending capacity is also increasing. Considering this, it is very important to have a wider range of offerings. Going forward, the smartphone manufacturers should be present in the right price bands as well as in the bands which contribute the most to the overall sales.

Smartphone market will continue to grow in double digits (15%) and this will be driven mainly by the demand for replacement those who are switching from feature phones and old smartphones to new smartphones in the country. So, as long as the smartphone manufacturers keep up with the expectations of the consumers in the market, new innovations will be warmly welcomed by the consumers. The number of trends and the innovations introduced definitely made 2018 a promising year for the smartphone industry.

Smartphone Marketshare 

Smartphone market share 2018Q1
Xiaomi 30.3%
Samsung 25.1%
Oppo 7.4%
Vivo 6.7%
Transsion 4.6%
Others 25.9%

 

Top 5 Smartphone Models Q2 2018
Xiaomi Redmi 5S 9%
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro 6%
Samsung Galaxy J6 5%
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 5%
Vivo Y71 4%
Others 71%
Total 100%

 Top 5 smartphone vendor highlights

 Xiaomi continued to lead the smartphone market in the 2018Q1 by doubling its volume year on year. Also, its continuous efforts to expand offline footprint has helped get visibility for the brand, thus ensuring the availability in more places. In line with the duty hike on populated PCBs, Xiaomi announced its big move towards local manufacturing by setting up its first SMT (Surface Mount Technology) facility in Tamil Nadu in April 2018.

Samsung remained at the 2nd spot in smartphone ranking with flat annual growth in 2018Q1. Samsung’s two-pronged approach with the focus on low-to-mid range J Series and the latest flagships Galaxy S9 Series along with Galaxy S8 Series and Note 8 in the premium segment drove shipments for the vendor.

OPPO climbed to 3rd position from 5th in the last quarter. While it launched F7 in the latter-half of 2018Q1, bulk of its shipments came from mid-ranged A Series with upgraded variants in 2018. The channel realignment to focus on channel partners primarily with high sales contribution continued to build deeper relationships in those channels. In a bid to capture online space, OPPO did its first flash sale exclusively on Flipkart ahead of F7 launch. The smartphone maker is also expected to launch its new online exclusive series under the brand ‘Realme’.

Vivo slipped to 4th position as its shipments declined by 29.4% year-over-year in 2018Q1. However, the brand grew by 2.1% as compared to previous quarter. The Y Series of Vivo continued to generate close to 70% demand.

 Transsion made its entry into the Top 5 with more than threefold annual growth in shipments in 2018Q1. The China-based group has four brands under its umbrella – namely itel, Tecno, Infinix and Spice. With its primary focus on offline channels, itel and Tecno branded phones are doing well in the highly price-sensitive India market.