India is the smartphone frontier that all manufacturers want to conquer, with pitched warfare happening across all price ranges, from budget to flagship. Interestingly, this market is being utterly dominated by Android and there seems to be room for all OEMs to carve out their own slice of Indian success.
On the budget end of the scale, Oppo-backed Realme, Samsung, and Xiaomi are duking it out for market supremacy. Each company can boast massive successes in India so far, but Realme has this week announced it has sold over 210,000 units of its new Realme 3 smartphone during a flash sale on Monday (March 11).
Additional to its sales success, Realme also claims it is now the sector leader in terms of ultra-budget smartphones in India. To take that particular accolade the Realme 3 would have to sell more than the recently launched Xiaomi Redmi Note 7. Placed on sale last week, the Redmi Note 7 handset sold 200,000 units during its first day of release.
It seems Realme’s boast was true, although how both smartphones perform from here remains to be seen.
— realme (@realmemobiles) March 12, 2019
The Samsung Connection
Where does all this leave Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone brand? Well for at least five years, the South Korean giant has been the best-selling vendor in India, but in January of this year, Xiaomi overtook Samsung. Of course, being the second largest brand in a country with over one billion customers is not a bad thing, but Samsung was reluctant to admit it had lost top spot to Xiaomi.
Two months ago, Dj Koh, CEO of Samsung mobile, confessed that the company is no longer number one in India. Speaking at a launch event for the Samsung Galaxy S10 flagship in India, Koh said:
“We may have dropped to second place in terms of a number of devices shipped, but we are still dominant when it comes to revenues. We do want to get back to the No. 1 spot in terms of volumes and we’ll do that by embracing a broad range of customer needs. We’re particularly counting on the M series for that.”
Perhaps the obvious question is why has India become such a critical market for the world’s smartphone manufacturers? Across the globe, smartphone markets are facing a slump in sales, including huge regions such as the United States. Even China, a huge growth market five years ago, has become sluggish.
India is one of the only growing smartphone markets in the world, and more importantly it has a huge consumer base. In fact, market researcher Canalys reported last week India bucked global trends by increasing its smartphone sales in 2018 by 10%, shipping 137 million units in total.
Xiaomi has moved ahead in India with 41 million units sold (30 percent of the market) during last year, making the country the Chinese company’s biggest market. Samsung slipped to second but still achieved 26 percent of the market with 35.4 million units sold.
Taking a Bite from Apple
There is one major smartphone brand conspicuous by its absence when discussing the Indian smartphone market, Apple. While the iPhone is amongst the best-selling handsets around the world, in India it barely makes a dent. Android smartphones are the dominant force and Apple’s usually slick marketing prowess is simply failing.
In fact, a recent report by the Wall Street Journal suggests Apple is throwing away the Indian market and giving Android vendors an easy ride. The report points to Apple’s stubbornness in not changing its business strategies to reflect the market. Consumers in the country have shown they want affordable quality, not the sort of exclusive high-end devices Apple attempts to sell.
Simply put, there is no iPhone available that fits the consumer profile in India.