Business / Technology

Smartphone vendors to come up with all the right numbers

By Gao Yuan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-07 07:56

I never realized Beijing was such a dull and quiet city until I went to India for a week.

The incessant noise of car horns in New Delhi left me with a permanent ringing in my ears and a desire to get out of the place as soon as possible.

But a piece of freshly baked garlic naan and a full-size portion of curry chicken tickled my taste buds and left me entranced by the city.

Naturally, there were other sights and sounds that amazed me such as the highly decorative trucks that mingle with the flash cars on the crowded roads, and the number of Nokia phones that are still in use with their charming ring tones.

With a population that is predicted to surpass China's, India looks ripe for a smartphone invasion. Indeed, the latest must-have handsets can be seen on the busy streets of the country's major cities.

But there still seems to be a place for cheap and cheerful mobiles, even though an entry-level smartphone can cost as low as 5,500 rupees ($82).

To explain this, you only have to talk to people from the business community.

During a flight from New Delhi to Mumbai, I started chatting to a businessman involved in the steel industry.

He told me he used an iPhone 6 when catching up with the latest news or checking emails. But deep in his pocket was a trusty Nokia, which he used for phone calls.

Because of limited charging stations and an indifferent power supply, he switches between the two models to save battery time. His story is common in the city and is stunting the development of smartphones, leaving manufacturers with a dilemma.

Should they roll out small screen smartphones, which use less power, or concentrate on pamphlet-size mobiles, which are becoming increasingly popular? Part of the solution could be portable power packs. They will play a crucial role in the years to come, while more energy-saving smartphones will no doubt be launched by the main players.

But then, the battle for supremacy in India's mobile market is becoming distinctly competitive. Domestic brands such as Micromax Mobile and Lava International Ltd are locked in a fight with Chinese rivals Xiaomi Corp, Meizu Technology Co Ltd and LeTV Holdings Co Ltd.

They are all slugging it out for dominance in the middle end of the sector or mobiles that cost less than $200.

Another Chinese giant in India, Lenovo Group, is taking on global powerhouse Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in the mainstream market, where smartphones can cost up to $500. And vivo Mobile Communication Technology Co Ltd is also making waves.

The previously unknown smartphone maker created a splash by becoming a title sponsor for the high-profile Indian Premier League, a cricket tournament that is watched across the globe.

Indians love cricket, so vivo's move is starting to look pretty shrewd. As for how much the company spent on the deal, that is difficult to say.

But vivo's predecessor, soft drink giant PepsiCo Inc, forked out a whopping 3.97 billion rupees back in 2013 to secure the sponsorship rights. It seems vivo is making a very expensive point.

In the end, of course, it is impossible to predict who will win the smartphone wars. Still, as long as Chinese companies continue to roll out competitive products, they will be in with a shout.

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