Wow! It’s an insane feeling to walk into a mobile store toting no more than Rs. 10,000 in your pocket and walk out with a handset or tablet that not only resembles a top brand but has features that could give them a run for their money. I say, we need to put our hands together for the Micromaxes and Karbonns of the world who are trying to deliver, and almost delivering, quality low-priced smartdevice technology to the masses.
Gone are the days when the market was injected with a shot of the Chinese mobile virus where the average Indian consumer was duped with daunting promises of phones that did everything for one third the price of a branded device. This was then followed by the plague of cheap tablet PCs that also made similar vows. Those cheap knock offs that bore shady semblances to high-end devices but performed in no manner akin to the originals served their purpose, in some ways. They succeeded in damaging our ears with unnecessarily loud speakers and even offered triple and quadruple SIM card support. Sure, there were a few here and there that managed to perform reasonably well, but with the boon of the smartphone, the consumers have gotten much smarter and the dumber phones are on their way out.
The age of the budget smartdevice has arrived and the mobile realm is seeing a fresh new logic that determines buying decisions. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still swamped with an unimaginable amount of ultra-cheap Android powered devices, which is both a good thing and a bad thing again. With so many choices, decisions get harder. But in the low budget segment, companies like Karbonn, iBall and the ridiculously named Wicked Leak, to name a few, have carved a comfy little niche for themselves. These manufacturers are able to create, market and develop devices in both the smartphone and tablet spaces that are every bit as capable of doing all that the Samsungs of the world can, with a few minor exceptions. All they need to focus on right now is maintaining a consistency of quality.
War of the brands
We’ve come a long way since the Olivepad and Andro A60 devices and we’re looking now at a new era in mobile computing. There’s plenty to choose from that won’t quite hit you in that tender spot (by that, I mean your wallet), making you reel in anguish from paying too much and getting so little. In the battle of the budget segment versus the big players, sparring is on and blows are going back and forth. Nokia, Samsung and now even Sony have started catering to the masses with low budget smartphone offerings. These branded devices, however, are equipped with low-res displays, low megapixel cameras, older OS versions (in some cases), and UIs that aren’t the most user-friendly. In the same segment, Micromax, Karbonn and iBall are managing to dish out handsets with displays almost twice as large, powerful processing speeds, higher resolution cameras and a slew of free apps that can be quite handy. They even avoid messy bloatware with add on UIs and stick to stock ICS. Some are already offering the latest version of Android, i.e. Jelly Bean, while big brands are still scrambling round to provide updates.
Each of the players in this competition have their own space, but it won’t surprise me one bit if the big players end up eating crow in the budget class. Devices like the Wicked Leak Wammy Note and the Micromax Superphone Canvas A110 will make them work real hard to stay on the top of India’s smartdevice list. And as the competition heats up, each player will be forced to bring their A-Game, making things even more interesting.
The game has changed and for the first time, the consumers are the winners.