Is the Concept of Affordable Phones Possible Without Chinese Phones?

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Is the Concept of Affordable Phones Possible Without Chinese Phones
Is the Concept of Affordable Phones Possible Without Chinese Phones

A few years ago, if you wanted to purchase a smartphone with high-end features and specs, you had very few options. You had to either shell out serious cash, and purchase a flagship model from premium brands like Apple and Samsung, or opt for the next-best option, and purchase a smartphone from brands like Motorola, HTC or Nokia. However, the landscape of the smartphone industry changed forever when Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer entered the Indian market.

While the likes of Apple and Samsung were still competing for market superiority when it came to the premium segment, Xiaomi soon changed the tide, when it came to budget and mid-range segments. The brand unveiled Redmi Note 4 in 2017, which became one of the best-selling phones that year, while also firmly establishing Xiaomi’s standing as one of the best smartphone brands in the country. The following year, Realme entered the Indian market, and started offering feature-rich smartphones at affordable prices. Apart from Realme, OnePlus, Vivo and OPPO also started capturing the average consumer’s imagination, and while OnePlus has since focused on the premium segment, Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo and OPPO have now become the go-to brands for the middle class consumers.

During the first quarter of 2020, it was reported that the five Chinese mobile brands — Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo, OPPO and OnePlus accounted for 73 percent of the smartphone market share in the country. However, 2020 has also seen a significant shift in the socio-political situation in India, with the ‘Make in India’ sentiment resonating strongly with the average Indian consumer.

This begs the question: Does the concept of affordable smartphones even exist without Chinese phones? We take a closer look at why that might not be the case.

  1. Less Value-Alternatives

Today, when we talk about best budget smartphones, we often end up with devices made by Chinese brands such as Xiaomi and Realme. While Samsung is one other brand that provides value alternatives in the same price segment, there aren’t any other viable options for Indian consumers. Even the latest models such as the Redmi 9 Prime, which is widely considered to be the best Redmi phone under 10000, come packed with top-of-the-line features and latest technology, and are available at unbeatable prices.

  1. Past as an Indicator

Before Xiaomi and the other Chinese brands entered the Indian market, the Indian consumers either had to pay exorbitant amounts to get the high-end, premium phones from brands like Apple and Samsung, or had to settle for smartphones with not-so-impressive features and specs. In the year prior to Xiaomi entering the Indian market, Samsung captured the biggest piece of the pie when it came down to market share with 32 percent, followed by Micromax with 21 percent, and with yet another Indian smartphone manufacturer, Karbonn coming in third with 11 percent.

Today however, Micromax and Karbonn are not even in the picture when it comes to smartphone sales in India, thanks to Chinese smartphone manufacturers blowing their competition out of the water.

  1. Budget Constraints in the Aftermath of the Pandemic

2020 has been a tough year for almost all the industries, and more so for the smartphone brands. Lockdown imposed in India in particular has heavily impacted the smartphone manufacturers, with both online and offline smartphone sales being halted for a few months. Furthermore, while certain businesses have had to let go of a majority of their workforce, other companies have had to cut their employees’ salaries as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

While purchasing a new smartphone under these conditions is not viable for most of the Indian consumers, it becomes almost impossible without the presence of Chinese smartphone brands. Thus, it is difficult to even imagine a scenario where Indian consumers no longer have access to smartphones made by Chinese brands. 

Furthermore, nowadays  a 4GB RAM mobile is being introduced by popular Chinese brands like Xiaomi that comes with full HD+ display and AI quad-camera setup, along with 64GB internal storage which can be expanded up to 512GB via microSD card. For the price of Rs. 9,999, it is safe to assume that no other non-Chinese brand other than Samsung can offer the same features and specs, as Chinese brands arguably provide the best cost-to-performance ratio when it comes to smartphones.

Chinese phone manufacturers have successfully leveraged the power of great product, innovation and competitive pricing to gain a foothold in the Indian market, making it implausible to even think about the concept of affordable phones without mentioning Chinese smartphone brands.

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