Celling point

If nostalgia for a feature phone makes you shell out R4,000, there is a range of smartphones available at this price and even less

Seventeen yeras ago, Nokia introduced the 3310—a subtle yet sturdy GSM mobile phone that weighed just 133 g—to a world that was still getting used to the concept  of cellphones. That basic feature phone went on to  become one of the best-selling phones of that generation, with 126 million units sold worldwide. But the world has changed since. With smartphones offering exceptional specs, feature phones are now virtually extinct. It was, therefore, surprising news that the Nokia 3310 is slated for a comeback later this month. As per various reports, it would be priced at 59 euros (approximately R4,000).


The 3310 does bring back a sense of nostalgia, but if it’s selling for R4,000, there are a range of smartphones that offer advanced features for the same price and even much less. The below-R5,000 category in smartphones is all the rage, with the masses opting for these low-cost devices in huge numbers. No wonder then that you can see people even from low-income brackets brandishing five-inch smartphones.


The trend started with the launch of Aqua Mobiles’ dual-sim 3G smartphone, priced at R2,699, in November 2015. This was soon followed by other brands. In May 2016, home-grown brand Micromax launched two smartphones running on Android Lollipop—Bolt Supreme and Bolt Supreme 2—priced at R2,749 and R2,999, respectively. Both smartphones come with dual-sim functionality and support 3G. Intex, too, introduced two new smartphones, Aqua 3G Strong and the little costlier Aqua 3G Pro—R2,899 and R3,666, respectively—in June 2016. Both models offer Android 4.4.2 KitKat, dual-SIM support, four-inch display and 3G connectivity.


Karbonn is another prominent player in the entry-level segment. In July 2016, the company launched the A91 Storm smartphone for R2,899. The phone comes with a four-inch touchscreen display and 512 MB RAM. It has 4 GB internal storage and runs on Anrdoid 5.1. “Karbonn has been focused towards making the smartphone experience more affordable for users. Like the A91 Storm, K9 Smart, priced a little higher at R3,990, is also one of our fast-selling models. It is targeted at entry-level users and offers the option to navigate the device in up to 12 Indian languages,” says a spokesperson for Karbonn Mobiles.


Reliance Retail also launched its mobile phone brand Lyf last year. The four Lyf Flame models—Flame 3, Flame 4, Flame 5 and Flame 6—offer 4G and are priced at R2,999. The phones come with VoLTE, or voice over LTE, through which consumers can avail features like faster call set-up, high-definition voice and video calling, etc. Experts say VoLTE adoption is bound to grow exponentially in the coming years. As per an Ericsson Mobility Report for June 2016, there were more than 100 million VoLTE subscriptions globally at the end of 2015. “The uptake is expected to accelerate in the coming years, with 2.3 billion subscriptions projected by 2021,” the report said. Additionally, almost every telecom operator in India today is working to provide 4G services to customers. Established, as well as emerging brands are jostling to bring out 4G-enabled smartphones at cut-throat prices with competitive features—almost all phones in the low-cost category come with a minimum 3.5-inch screen, have both rear and front-facing cameras, and are backed by the latest Android OS, among other features.


Interestingly, prices are getting more and more competitive not only in the entry-level category, but overall as well. “The average sales price for a smartphone in India in 2014 was around R9,100—a 44% drop from 2010—and is forecast to fall another 25% to around R6,775 by 2018,” as per a recent Fortune.com report. “Today’s Indian consumer can purchase a basic smartphone for under $10,” the report added.

With smartphone users in India growing exponentially, new players are also expected to enter the market. STK, a London-based smartphone-maker, which provides mobile phone accessories in India, said in June last year that it plans to introduce smartphones in the R2,999-R9,999 range in India under the STK Mobiles brand name soon.
Clearly, more than any feature phone, it will be these affordable smartphones that will be ultimately connecting people.

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