India's Smartphone Battlezone

With the launch of eight smartphones in the past 10 days, India's device ecosystem is at last gearing up for the widespread arrival of 3G services. (See Bids Flood In for India's Spectrum Auctions and Indian Handset Firms Grab Market Share.)

Already in the past few days, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications has launched five handsets in the Xperia 10 and Vivaz ranges, with prices from 25,695 to 35,795 Indian Rupees (US$570.17 to $794.30), while Spice Mobile launched its S-1200, which has a 12-megapixel camera and retails at INR14,500 ($321.83).

In addition, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) unveiled its Android-based Milestone device, which costs INR32,990 ($732.05), while major mobile operators Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) and Vodafone India have announced plans to introduce the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 3GS into the Indian market.

Bharti says it's already preparing for the launch of 3G services, even though the spectrum auction is still a few weeks away. "Our network is ready, and once the bidding is complete, we would be able to launch the services within six-to-eight months," stated the operator's CEO, Sanjay Kapoor, at a press conference.

In contrast, market leader Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) has been conspicuous by its silence.

Then today, High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) further ignited the market by launching its Smart device in collaboration with Bharti Airtel and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM). (See Bharti Brings HTC Smart to India.)

HTC's Smart, the first commercial 3G device based on Qualcomm's BREW mobile operating platform, offers "easy-to-use widgets, browsing and connectivity at an affordable price," according to HTC. The price? It starts at INR9,990 ($221.86), though local taxes might apply depending on where the phone is sold.

The launch is significant because, although 3G-enabled handsets are already available at less than INR5,000 ($110.95), this is the first sub-INR10,000 smartphone in India.

The smartphone category is emerging as the new battleground for supremacy in the Indian handset market. According to IDC , smartphone shipments in India hit 480,000 during the third quarter of 2009, and that volume is set to rise as prices fall, more models enter the market, and 3G services are launched.

The coming weeks and months look set to see further launches, and some cut-throat price competition, as the operators and handset makers look to capture market share.

— Gagandeep Kaur, India Editor, Light Reading

Rohit S 12/5/2012 | 4:40:26 PM
re: India's Smartphone Battlezone

I doubt if telecom companies would be benefiting sooner from 3G as the main market for India lies in rural and middle-class who want lesser expensive smart phones. I back HTC's strategy to launch a cheaper smart phone and also Samsung for their Corby in the market but to leverage true potential of 3G, Indian market needs a model of US or Europe where the handset is sold by telecom operator. Seems there is a shift to that side now as the likes of Bharti and Vodafone have that in their mind.

Nice post.

Diya22 12/5/2012 | 4:40:24 PM
re: India's Smartphone Battlezone Nice article, but I wonder has apple not learnt anything from the failure of its previous version of iPhone. The phone was rejected by Indian users largely on pricing. And now the successor comes at equally horrendous price. And worse is that it can be bought cheaper abroad. Same with Motorola Droid, which is Motorola Milestone here.
Rohit S 12/5/2012 | 4:40:24 PM
re: India's Smartphone Battlezone

I agree, Gagandeep. We can wait-and-watch as India in itself is a dynamic market for telecom and handset manufacturers. Thanks for your reply.

Gagandeep Kaur 12/5/2012 | 4:40:24 PM
re: India's Smartphone Battlezone Cheaper smartphones are definitely going to be an order of the day. BlackBerry has also brought down its entry level price in the last six months. This will further fuel the demand in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities.
Airtel and Vodafone (with iPhone) have already experimented with the model where handset is sold by telecom operator. Aircel has also recently launched Inq, which is exclusively available to its subscribers. So, yes, the top-end of the market is moving towards this model but whether it will become a norm, remains to be seen.
Sign In