Smartphones gain ground in India

03 January 2011

NEW DELHI: Smartphones are witnessing a surge in demand among Indian consumers, as the competition between companies like Nokia, Dell and HTC intensifies.

Nokia's Indian stable includes the N8, launched in October 2010, and the Finnish multinational foresees considerable local possibilities going forward.

"The smartphone market will grow many-fold next year. The prices are reasonable and will come down further," V. Ramnath, Nokia India's director, operator channels, told The Hindu.

"With the coming up of 3G technology in India, the market for smartphones will have a push."

Bharti Airtel and HTC jointly-unveiled the HTC HD7 last month, marking the extension of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 – the American corporation's latest offering in the wireless arena – to India.

Shireesh Joshi, Bharti Airtel's cmo, mobile services, said the HD7 would combine the "strength of the Airtel brand and network with the innovation and design of HTC and the great user-interface of Windows Phone 7."

"[It] will take mobile communications to a whole new level," he added.

Gartner, the research group, believes shipments of this and similar gadgets should continue to expand at a pace ahead of the wider mobile telecoms sector.

"Smartphones are the fastest growing market segment, registering over 50% growth in 2010 over 2009," said Anshul Gupta, a principal analyst at the firm.

"Smartphone sales are expected to grow 60% per cent in 2011 over 2010."

IDC, another research provider, reported that smartphone purchases leapt 295% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2010, a figure which "clearly underscores" a rising inclination towards such products on the part of shoppers.

One contributor to this shift is the falling cost of buying these next-generation appliances, as 90% of acquisitions in Q3 2010 were below the average sales value, standing at 18,000 rupees ($402; €301; £259).

"Overall, India smartphone sales are expected to touch 5.96m units by end of calendar 2010," said Naveen Mishra, lead analyst, mobile handsets research, IDC India.

While this equates to a sizeable improvement on an annual basis, it still only constitutes a small fraction of the 155.9m devices estimated to have been snapped up by Indian customers last year.

Mishra also predicted Google's open source operating system, Android, could exert a particularly important influence.

"An increasing number of vendors are displaying confidence in the Android OS, having grown from just one vendor in 3Q 2009 to as many as seven in 3Q 2010," he said.

Dell, the IT giant, has developed a smartphone powered by Android, called Venue, which may be sold in India at some point in the near future.

"The smartphone market in India has huge potential for growth and has become a focus market for major players worldwide," said Mahesh Bhalla, general manager, consumer & SMB, Dell India.

"The introduction of Android-based handsets has had a significant impact on the variety of handsets available and the overall increase in affordability of smartphones."

In 2010, Dell also rolled out the Streak tablet in India, competing with Samsung's Galaxy Tab and the Olive Pad, but not, as yet, Apple's iPad.

Data sourced from The Hindu; additional content by Warc staff