From Honor to Realme, these are the brands challenging Xiaomi’s dominance in the budget segment

On: January 24, 2019

Xiaomi entered the Indian market in 2014 with an elaborate plan – releasing attractive, high-specced phones at dirt cheap prices and upholding its exclusivity using flash sales. It was able to do this due to its commitment to spend next to nothing on advertising. This, among many other factors, gave the company instant success in a market that was dominated by Samsung handsets. Only a few years later, the Chinese brand managed to grab the highest smartphone market share in the country.

But it wasn’t long before other hopefuls started imitating this approach. Even companies that were well established in the country felt the need to change their business to compete with the ever-growing giant that Xiaomi was. In the process, some perished, but some really pulled through. And as a result, we are now seeing huge competition in the game that Xiaomi perfected.

Slowly and steadily, this is leading to a change in the landscape. Last year, OPPO floated a company titled Realme, which released five attractive offerings in quick succession, including the likes of the Realme 2 Pro and Realme U1. The strategy was more or less the same – big specs, small price. Despite the company’s nascent presence, people lapped up these offerings in frenzy. The budget phone market, albeit slightly, was disrupted after a very long time.

In fact, during the Diwali festive season of last year, Realme had the second highest market share in online sales, according to Counterpoint data. Moreover, the same period also saw Realme – now independent from OPPO – grabbing the third highest market share in overall (online and offline) sales.

Huawei’s Honor is another force to be reckoned with. Its strategy includes putting out smartphones in every sub-segment in the budget range and mid-range market. It has literally become a hard task to keep track of the number of Honor phones that are out there. Selfies are a big focus for the company, and high-resolution front cameras are hence the norm. This is obviously driving the selfie crazy youth towards Honor devices, and it helps that the phones go pretty light on their wallets.

But perhaps the biggest success story of recent times is that of ASUS. Before its reincarnation last year, the Taiwanese brand seemed all but done with its smartphone game. Handsets with sub-standard cameras, cluttered software and features nobody was asking for were being infused into the market at regular intervals.

But all this while, ASUS was definitely listening to the criticism coming its way. With the ZenFone Max Pro M1, the company gave people a phone with a massive battery that ran a near-stock version of Android, devoid of bloatware. Its dual cameras were also impressive moreover. This helped ensure that its comeback was a successful one. It followed this release up with the ZenFone 5Z, which was heralded by many as a worthy competitor to the giant that was the OnePlus 6. These, and the subsequent releases made ASUS a compelling option again.

Xiaomi’s biggest victory in India came when it managed to dethrone Samsung to grab the highest smartphone market share in the country. While Samsung is still doing well commercially, it does not want to just sit back and watch the Chinese brand dominate the budget segment. This is what has led it to come up with the Galaxy M series of phones.

One look at these handsets and you’ll realize that these are replicas of the sub-Rs 20,000 devices that are going around right now. They have extremely slim bezels, teardrop notches and dual cameras on their backs. While these factors will definitely help the M series perform well, another thing that Samsung has by its side is the market’s trust in the Samsung brand, especially among those who prefer to shop offline.

We are experiencing a casual shift in the way companies are building their phones. A change that was inspired by the immense success of Xiaomi, and is now being driven forward by the urge to understand the market demands. But with change being the only constant, who knows what’s in store for us in the coming years.