Smartphones have largely become one of the most desired technological devices today and this desirability is derived by many factors that make it the most addictive electronic gadgets of its time. One of them being convergence of all possible innovative technologies fitting into a consumer’s hands while providing them with access to knowledge and infotainment. Also, a large availability of affordable devices and application stores are continuously increasing the ‘wow’ factor as they help increase smartphone utility and user experience. Also, advance calling features coupled with instant messaging options are driving the adoption of smartphones in India.
A recent research report by IDC states that India is the fastest growing market in Asia Pacific with a quarter-on-quarter growth in Q3 2014. The market has observed a remarkable growth owing to the festive demand and recorded a new high in smartphone shipments in Q3 2014. While the smartphone penetration continues to rise, India still offers enormous potential, with millions of customers eager to upgrade. The increasing demand and availability of Internet is another factor that has fueled the growth for this segment. As companies use mobile broadband to provide Internet access to people without computers and push their 3G and 4G services, analysts expect that Internet access through mobile phones will grow explosively in the coming years.
In terms of innovation, various trends which are expected to revolutionise this space include the increasing usage of Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon processor chip which is going to power most of the next-generation flagship smartphones and tablets in 2015. For a consumer, new technology does not only mean new features or faster processing ability but also, as per researchers, more than 2 billion mobile users will carry out a mobile transaction by the end of 2017. Due to this, the industry will witness an increasing number of mobile transactions with mobile shopping and airline ticket booking which will soon shift from laptops and PCs to smartphones. Thus, innovation in this field will redefine the entire banking and payment system.
Another interesting trend being witnessed is the growing advent of full touchscreen devices today. In the year 2013, the resolutions of 800 x 480 pixel and 854 x 480 pixel were most popular as a part of the smartphone populace. In 2014, the number gradually fell and is expected to fall further. This downward slump in the trend is owing to increase in size of the display over years. The resolution of 1280 x 720 pixel is one of the most popular now a days and is expected to rise further in 2015. Also, with fierce competition and display technology improving, touch was the last great user-interface advancement and hand gesture recognition for mobile phones will be the next in 2015.
With this trend, the development of plastic Oled (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) for use in handset screens also means consumers might be soon twisting their phones and folding them in half which will lead to an end to paying expensive bills for repairing shattered glass screens. Future smartphones are expected to turn into an interactive gaming console without the need for a TV. Also, the front camera in smartphones has never been a key decisive factor until 2014, when the selfie craze took the world by storm. Now a days, 5 megapixel front camera is a norm in smartphones that featured only in a few handsets in 2013, gradually rose in handsets of 2014 and will continue to rise to in 2015.
The prices of smartphones dropping significantly around the world not only makes the possibility of owning a smartphone economically viable for the unconnected in emerging markets, but it is also making these handsets more attractive to consumers. Thus, affordability is a major decisive factor while choosing a handset today. The R5,000 to R10,000 bracket was the most popular segment within 2013 and 2014, respectively. It is further expected to go steady in the year 2015 as well.
Also, interest in 4G LTE (long-term evolution) technology and in faster mobile Internet connections in general is growing, as more Indians expect to do more on their smartphones—from finalising presentations to buying gifts to booking holidays or even doctor appointments.
The writer is managing director, Panasonic India