The Indian mobile market has been on an upward swing for years now, mirroring the overall economy at large. With rising aspirations and income levels, the market is expected to grow significantly in the long term, notwithstanding the odd quarter or two of seasonal variance. Even though India is already the third largest smartphone market in the world after China and the US, the comparatively lower penetration of smartphones in the country compared to the top two markets still leaves plenty of room for growth in the coming years, even as the Chinese market shows signs of fatigue after several years of steep growth. Market Research firms like Gfk and eMarketer have recently released research data to show that the next wave of smartphone adoption in India is largely expected to come from the growth in LTE, which has already been rolled out to around 300 towns by the country's largest carrier Airtel this year. While Airtel and other carriers are expected to continue rolling out LTE to more towns in coming months, the biggest push is expected to come from the upcoming December launch of an all-new LTE-only carrier called Reliance Jio, which will be a subsidiary of the country's largest corporate entity - Reliance Industries.
The last year has been especially hectic for the industry. The past several months have seen the launch of multiple new brands (mostly from China), which has resulted in a drastic reduction in prices and a considerable improvement in the standard of devices available in the entry-level and mid-range segments, aiding further adoption. With most analysts predicting good times ahead for the industry, gadget research website 91mobiles has conducted a study of emerging trends in the Indian smartphone market, which takes a look at the recent past, and aims to predict what lies ahead for the industry in the coming months.
As per the predictions of 91mobiles, phone launches this year is expected to increase by around 50 percent, crossing 1700 devices overall, seeing as 857 devices have already been launched in the first half of the year itself. This compares to 1,137 handsets launched during all of 2014 and barely 957 the year before. Five out of the top six brands in terms of the number of products launched happen to be local companies, with Intex and Micromax having launched 41 and 24 products respectively. Samsung apparently has launched 21 handsets this year, and is at number three on the list. HTC and Sony are the only other global brands, slotting in at numbers seven and nine on the list with 12 and 9 products launched respectively, in the first half of this year. The one noticeable trend however, is that global brands have started launching more mid-range products, in an apparent attempt to compete with firms from China. Samsung, for example, has already launched as many as 12 devices in the first half of this year in the sub- Rs. 20,000 ($320) segment.
That last bit of information is crucial as exactly 80 percent of product searches on 91moiles' site is for smartphones in that particular price range. While 45 percent of searches relate to phones in 5K - 10K ($80 - $160) price segment, exactly a third of all searches are for smartphones in the 10K - 20K ($160 - $320) range. While only 2 percent of searches are for devices in the ultra-entry-level segment below $80, the 20K and above segment has also seen meager traffic of around 16 percent, giving us a very good idea about the target segment of most buyers in the country. Another piece of news that will point at the popularity of the mid-range segment is the lineup of most-searched devices on the portal. 91mobiles reports that all of the handsets in its top 10 list of 'Most Searched-For Smartphones' happen to be priced below Rs. 20,000 ($320), with Asus ZenFone 2, Yu Yureka and Samsung Galaxy Core Prime occupying the top three positions on the list.
Another point to note is the phenomenal rise of Chinese brands in the country. While the first half of last year saw only 7 percent of the site's visitors searching for smartphones made by Chinese companies, this year has already seen as many as 22 percent of searches coming in for Chinese brands, with interest and acceptability of such products no doubt piqued by Xiaomi's blockbuster entry in the country in the middle of last year. The research also points towards two new interesting trends. The first one being the increasing popularity of online-only devices like Motorola and Xiaomi for example, which have been getting significantly more hits, growing from just 4 to 7 percent in H1 last year to as much as 33 percent in the same period this year. Another new trend is probably a more universal one, with 5-inch displays becoming the new 'small' with 90 percent of all searches relating to devices sporting a 5-inch or above display, irrespective of price segment.