Feature Phones To Stay Strong In The Indian Market
The age of feature phones is not yet over as many of us think. India has shown a strong preference towards feature phones. The dominance for these lower handsets have dominated and will continue to do so in 2016, with 50% of the market share, as the users in rural India and smaller towns continue to find neither the budget, or the utility to invest in feature rich smartphones. Also the growth in sales will directly be affected due to this, as the pace of smartphone sales are expected to take a dip, as the research by International Data Corporation (IDC), CyberMedia Research, and Counterpoint Technology Market Research lower their sales expectations.
IDC has also lowered it’s expected sales figures of smartphones, projecting 112 million units to be sold in place of the 135 million estimated earlier. This puts smartphone growth at just 8% this year, compared to 29% in 2015.
Similarly, CyberMedia Research also cut its sales forecasts for smartphone sales, to grow at 7% and sell 116 million units in 2016. However, the slightly more of an optimist was the Hong Kong based Counterpoint that showed smartphone sales growth in 2016, at 11%, and standing at unit sales of 125 million units being sold.
Faisal Kawoosa lead analyst for telecoms at CyberMedia, said, “We were expecting 2016-end to see crossover when smartphone proportion will be more than 50%, but now we expect smartphones to settle at 46% of total shipments.” He attributed several practical reasons such as the need, which is focused mainly around making voice calls, apart from the buying power and need for smartphones being absent, as the main reasons why feature continues to rule the roost in India.
The industry is looking at similar reasons for the slower rate of growth for smartphones. Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Group of enterprises, attributed to the stagnation of smartphone sales and data usage, as a result of cost of handsets and also the lack-of-use cases for people in the hinterlands of the country. He did mention the need for telecoms to educate people in rural areas about the extra utility of these devices.
On the other hand, Counterpoint Research analyst Tarun Pathak feels, that it is about lack of knowledge, compounded with lack of opinion and perspective, lack of content related to local languages, limited battery life in most smartphones, and also a lack of better quality of devices available at feature phone prices, which are pushing feature phones as the only viable alternative for people to use in rural and Tier-III cities across the country.
However, with Reliance Jio bringing in sub Rs 3,000 smartphones, there could be a ray of hope, but in order for the change to come, the timeline needs to be extended to witness such a change.
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