4 Reasons Why 2017 Saw People Buying More Feature Phones in India

India is a growing market, one of the largest in the world where people continue to buy phones in millions. Well, that’s what we’ve been told over the past six to eight months, and while that’s still the reality, the protagonists seem to have switched positions recently.

According to recent analyst reports, the feature phone segment seems to have stolen the limelight from the smartphones. More people have bought non-Android supported devices over the past four months in India.

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But wait, why are people looking at cheap, overly simple phones with a small screen that don’t let you do a lot? Here are five reasons why we think that’s happened.

1. Very Few Phone Launches Lately

We’re in the business of knowing when a new device launches in the market. But as is the case every year, the first part of 2018 has seen very few headlining launches. The list counts Samsung Galaxy S9, Vivo V9, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 series, and the recently launched Huawei P20 series.

"Q1 of 2018 was marked with less than normal smartphone launches as very few brands refreshed their portfolio, except for Xiaomi and Samsung which benefited from the new launches." - Karn Chauhan, Research Analyst, Counterpoint 

Samsung Galaxy S9 (left), Galaxy S9+ (right)

Most of these devices are priced in the higher rung, except for the Redmi Note 5, which, let’s be honest, stays out of stock more than selling on the shelf. India, still being a price sensitive market, has clearly seen a shift in the buying pattern, where the entry-level users have decided to wait it out for something better.

This has propelled first-time phone users (plenty of them) into the reckoning, and that kind of sums the reason for feature phones outselling smartphones.

2. JioPhone Played Its Part

It’ll be hard to talk about the feature phone segment without mentioning JioPhone. Reliance Jio announced its effectively free phone in 2017, and has been raking in the numbers ever since. According to Counterpoint,

"The demand for JioPhone continued through Q1 2018 as Reliance Jio’s feature phone market share raced from zero percent in 2017 to 36 percent in Q1 2018. " - Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Counterpoint

Samsung, and even Micromax, have seen a huge drop in their market share in the segment, while Nokia did make its comeback.

Nokia 3310 feature phone came in a new avatar.

Also Read: Reliance Jio Woos JioPhone Users With 1GB Data Plan For Rs 49

Itel is yet again the surprise package on the list, taking the number three position with around 9.4 percent market share. 

"Lack of vernacular/regional content, UI and good quality smartphones below Rs 2,700 (US$ 40) has been some of the driving factors for JioPhone’s growth." - Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Counterpoint

Also Read: Google Taps Into Reliance JioPhone for Google Assistant, but Why?

JioPhone basically offered first-time internet users the chance to watch videos, use Facebook, and even use voice assistant on the phone. All this innovation, along with its dirt-cheap price tag is likely to have caught everyone’s eye.

3. Pocket-Friendly Data Plan

Jio has found the right mix between offering devices with highly attractive 4G data plans to its customer.

Unlike its smartphone base, who’re required to spend close to 300 bucks for a minimum of 1GB data per day, JioPhone users got something even better.

Reliance Jio has claimed to have sold over six million JioPhones till date. 

People using the smart feature phone were offered a JioPhone-only data plan of Rs 153 with 500MB of data every day. Once their usage patterns increased, so did their hunger for data, which forced them to get the Rs 309 plan with 1GB data per day instead and people lapped it up, alright.

4. Too Many Smartphone Brands Confusing Buyers?

Xiaomi, Motorola, Honor, OnePlus, Britzo, iVoomi, Sony, HTC, LG. Phew. You get my point? There are so many brands out there in the market and buyers are either too selective of their choice or just too confused.

Nokia 3, 5 and 6 Android phones from HMD Global.

After all, all these brands (most of them at least) have phones in the 10 to 15K bracket (the hot-seller in India), and people just can’t figure out which one is worth their money. That trend might change during the latter part of 2018, but the crowded smartphone market is giving buyers choices, but it’s too many for my liking at the moment.

With phones like OnePlus, Apple iPhone and few more from the house of Motorola and Nokia, analyst believe that demand for smartphone will gather pace in the coming months, but feature phones will continue to play a part in the market.

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