It’s no secret that the budget smartphone segment in India is perhaps the busiest market there is. In a populated country like India, the number of people looking for affordable phones is massive and any company that can successfully bring budget phones that offer decent design and specs will surely be a winner here. Xiaomi is perhaps the first brand that comes to mind today because this is the segment where the company truly dominates any other brand.
One has to give credit to Xiaomi for capturing the sub-Rs 10,000 segment year after year with a bunch of budget phones that stand closely next to each other. This year, we have the Redmi 5A, Redmi 5, Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Y2 all under Rs 10,000. And while this is pretty impressive to see, a few problems do emerge. Firstly, most of these phones are available only via flash sales and often sell out within seconds, leaving a large portion of consumers disheartened and quite simply annoyed. The other problem is that competitors simply haven’t been able to offer the same value-for-money budget phones as Xiaomi.
Gone in a flash
Xiaomi has a lot of products in its bag and the company is always trying to expand its portfolio in India. It’s quite natural seeing how consumers lap up some Xiaomi’s budget smartphones so much so that they often go out of stock in a jiffy. So in order to control demand for its phones, Xiaomi typically assigns a day in a week for a particular phone to go on sale or the company holds a flash sale which lasts until stocks last. So, for example, the mid-range Redmi Note 5 Pro was initially available only through flash sales and thanks to a terrific demand, these sales lasted just mere seconds to a lot of people’s dismay. At the time of writing this piece, the Redmi 5A and Redmi Note 5 were unavailable for purchase.
Good budget phones do exist, but they are perhaps the hardest to claim
And it’s not just Xiaomi, even companies like Honor are unable to keep up with demand, which makes it hard as a consumer to purchase a budget phone at any time. The Honor 7A, for example, has also seen a pretty strong demand, but the phone has only been available via flash sales, making it hard for a lot of people to buy it. Not only do people have to wait for a particular day, but they also have to face the reality that they may not be fast enough to buy the product before it goes out of stock.
It’s understandable that these companies are unable to manufacture phones at the speed at which consumers are demanding it, which is why the flash sale method will continue for the foreseeable future. Good budget phones do exist, but they are perhaps the hardest to claim.
Xiaomi vs the rest
Coming to the other big issue in the budget segment – the competition. I mentioned that Xiaomi has a number of phones, perhaps the most number of phones, under the Rs 10,000 price bracket right now. And the reason all of these phones are doing so well is because all of them are value-for-money products and by that I mean they offer good looks along with good hardware and software experience at a low cost. The other reason why Xiaomi’s phones do so well is that the competition isn’t able to offer the same deal.
There is no dearth of budget phones in the market. There are phones from Samsung, Nokia and Honor, among others, that offer sub-Rs 10,000 phones. But you often find that these phones come with some glaring omission, some trade-off or missing feature that makes it fall short of a similarly priced Redmi phone. Take last year’s Nokia 3, for example, which is perhaps one of the best stock Android options under Rs 10,000. But beyond the software, the phone doesn’t impress with its design, hardware or cameras, which makes it look pricey even at Rs 9,000.
HMD hasn’t been able to crack this segment as well as it has been able to impress with more expensive phones like the Nokia 7 Plus. Phones like the Nokia 1, Nokia 2 and Nokia 3 simply offer too less for their asking price. These phones are not value-for-money in the way Xiaomi’s budget phones are. And what this does is essentially limit the options available for a consumer in this segment.
Samsung, which was once a popular face in the budget segment, also looks like it isn’t trying hard enough in the budget segment. Right now, the Galaxy On5 Pro and Galaxy J3 Pro are perhaps the only under Rs 10,000 phone you’ll find via e-commerce platforms. And the funny thing is that both the phones are quite dated, with the On5 Pro being launched back in 2016. The company is still trying to stay relevant above Rs 10,000, but under it the company is practically not even worth considering.
With brands like Nokia and Samsung unable to offer anything compelling, we’re once again back to Xiaomi.
With brands like Nokia and Samsung unable to offer anything compelling, we’re once again back to Xiaomi. Occasionally, you have some non-Redmi phones like an Honor 7A and RealMe 1 that come along that do impress and have the ability to take on Xiaomi, but these phones are too few to make a splash. We also have lesser known brands like 10.or that have also managed to bring some good phone, but they suffer from lack of awareness. Unless we start seeing an influx of sub-Rs 10,000 phones that offer the best bang for the buck and are always available, buying budget phones is not going to be an easy task.
The problem we’re facing is that while it may look as though the budget segment is busy and populated, without consistent and easy availability, consumers are likely going to give up and decide on a phone that’s over Rs 10,000. Xiaomi has managed a monopoly in this segment because it isn’t being challenged properly. Competitors need to offer more value phones that bring the same level of aesthetics and hardware at a low cost as Xiaomi does.