Samsung is a huge name when it comes to smartphones. Thanks to the wild success of its Galaxy series, the Korean manufacturer has got a stranglehold on the Indian, and to a certain extent the international, Android smartphone market.
How then can a company that was founded in 2008 and started out as a manufacturer of low-cost dumb or feature phones have a leg up on the Korean giant? It started in 2010, when Micromax, the other company in question, launched its first Android phone, the Andro A60. It was a modest phone by all measures and ran Android 2.1 Eclair on a 2.8-inch display and had a weird oblong design that could only please the most eccentric. At the time, Samsung’s flagship was the slick Galaxy S, which boasted top-of-the-line specifications and had the backing of the company’s huge marketing prowess.
A couple of years later, Micromax is gunning hard for Samsung’s top spot in the Indian Android smartphone market. Of course, there’s still a long way to go and there’s no telling if the Gurgaon-based company will ever catch up. But if the past few days are any indication, Samsung has a good reason to be worried.
Will Micromax upstage Samsung in 2013?
Yesterday, Micromax announced its flagship phone, the A116 Canvas HD. It boasts a powerful MediaTek MT6589 1.2GHz quad core processor with 1GB of RAM and boots a lightly-skinned version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean; and it is blazing fast. But the biggest factor in its favour is the low official price of Rs 14,999, which undercuts existing quad-core models available in the country.
In the light of this, Samsung’s announcement today of the Galaxy Grand seems like a cop-out. The Galaxy Grand is decidedly mid-range, but Samsung has done a commendable job in dressing it up with features that are usually found in the likes of the Galaxy Note II. Its 5-inch screen matches the Micromax phone, but the resolution is a pitiful 800 x 480. One gets a feeling that Samsung missed a beat by including such a low-resolution screen in the phone. For one, prices of qHD displays are low, as evidenced by the slew of mid-tier, low-priced phones that feature the 960 x 540 resolution. Secondly, the Galaxy Grand’s official price of Rs 21,500 makes it an expensive proposition even without considering that it is powered by an as-yet-unnamed 1.2GHz dual-core processor and also sports an 8 megapixel camera just like the A116.
This begs the question: why would anyone prefer the Galaxy Grand over the Micromax handset? The simple answer is they wouldn’t, unless they are swayed by Samsung’s pedigree as a handset maker or by free gifts such as a flip cover or cloud storage. Naysayers will say the A116’s build quality cannot stand up to the Samsung phones. But both are plastic built and for once, Micromax has released a phone that can’t be called a rip-off of another popular handset. Micromax has also promised an Android 4.2 update for the A116.
Micromax’s push to become the leading smartphone maker in India could not have received a better boost than the announcement of the A116 immediately before the Galaxy Grand. Not only will it throw light on the price disparity, but everything here is working in the favour of the Gurgaon-based company. And during yesterday’s announcement, the company revealed that it is going to forge ahead by launching more smartphones this year—thirty more to be precise! "We have a strong portfolio of products in the smart devices category, which contributes about 40-45 per cent of our revenues. We are looking at bringing in 30 new smartphones this year across price categories and take up market leadership position," Micromax CEO Deepak Mehrotra told reporters at the launch of A116. Even Samsung, with its marketing might and big budgets, would struggle to keep up with that rate of releases.
According to the latest figures released by market analysis firm GfK, Samsung is the overall leader in the Indian smartphone arena with a 45 percent share of the market. So clearly Micromax has a lot of work to do to get ahead of the leader. However, if the company continues to churn out smartphones that can compete on a spec level and also arrive at a highly-competitive price point, it wouldn't be any surprise if they give Samsung a tough fight in the market. 2013 could very well be the year of Micromax.