The headline that you read above is what I heard from a kid shouting out to his father. It was ironic as the father was offering him an Apple iPhone as his next present and the kid instead said that it was cool to have a black Redmi Note 4. The father must have certainly felt good about the lesser strain on his pockets but weird about the fact that it is no more cool to have an iPhone.
Now you may contradict this by saying that people want to eventually get an iPhone and that owning a Chinese-branded smartphone is just a fad for now. While nothing can be said about the fad bit, it is certain that Apple has become more of a Samsung, i.e. iPhones are so common, both in the market and specification sheet. In fact, Xiaomi recently announced that a market survey marks the largest number of people willing to go for a Xiaomi device as their next smartphone, with those opting for Apple coming second.
And, it’s not only Xiaomi. Popular Chinese manufacturers like OPPO and VIVO have witnessed tremendous growth in semi-urban and rural areas. These two have been also sponsoring major sporting leagues in the country to increase their visibility. Lenovo also enjoys a tremendous amount of success in the market.
If you think that the Chinese only dominate in the mid-range smartphone category, then you must be knowing about the company called OnePlus. Die hard Android fans consider their smartphones to be the best value-for-money products, especially the old OnePlus One and last year's OnePlus 3. But, OnePlus is from China and is owned by the same parent company that owns OPPO and VIVO. Motorola is also a part of Lenovo these days and their Moto Z range of smartphones have been considered to bring innovation to the category.
It is really surprising to see major device manufacturers emerging from the Chinese market instead of those countries that defined these fields. A few years back, you only owned a Chinese smartphone because either you wanted a temporary smartphone or the usual ‘esteemed’ choices were too mainstream. Nobody wanted to associate themselves with any piece of technology that emerged from Chinese drawing boards. So why has the world suddenly found favour for these?
Since the concept of trading emerged in the world of human beings, it is known that a vendor will only gain customers if they catered to their specific demand. In the world of phones, something similar is also happening. When the mobile phone industry started booming with feature phones, consumers had to buy what the manufacturers offered. Even when smartphones came, the only choice of personalisation available to the consumer was the ability to tweak the software according to individual liking. However, it became too boring to be denied something that users wanted in the name of consistency and relevance. This is where the Chinese manufacturers tapped in.
People were looking for smartphones with dual-SIM capability, so the Chinese manufacturers gave them that. People asked for louder audio, which the Chinese offered. People asked for bigger screens, which was offered first by Chinese. People wanted an iPhone clone, the Chinese gave them truckloads of that. People demanded a great build quality with good software, the Chinese provided them with that. And, all of the demands were offered in prices that people wanted.
Basically, the Chinese manufacturers responded to the demands faster than the mainstream international brands. recently, OPPO found the demand of dual front cameras for great selfies from smartphones, so they made one for India and it is already selling well. Xiaomi found a demand for premium build quality in the budget smartphone category, so they made one specific model to tackle the demand. This concept of catering to the consumers has resulted in the likes of Xiaomi and OPPO getting favours from the buyers. Ask anyone these days about their next preferred smartphone brand and you will not find Samsung or Apple as an answer. You might even see them all praise for their own Xiaomi or OPPO or OnePlus or VIVO smartphone.
And they have all the right to praise their Chinese smartphones. After all, a smartphones from a Chinese smartphone is as good as the ones from the Western countries. In fact, tech giants have their factories set up in China for improving build quality standards. A smartphone from OnePlus challenges the flagship iPhone in terms of build and software.
As a lay man, I was a Samsung loyalist and considered their smartphones to better in every aspect than their similarly priced competitors. However, while looking for a smartphone last year, a premium Xiaomi smartphone appealed to me over a similarly priced mid-range smartphone. Why? Because their product was offering desirable specifications and build quality for the price of outdated plastic shells from Samsung. In fact, Xiaomi appealed to consumer like me who wants a phone that is affordable and full of cutting-edge internals.
In a recent Xiaomi event, it was surprising to see hoards of people excited about their mid-range smartphones. They had a group of ‘Mi Fans’ – people who were fans of Xiaomi devices. To make this fanbase even stronger, Xiaomi provides pre-release smartphone models to them for testing purposes. Apple doesn’t do that. Their fans don’t get to test the upcoming iPhone and interact with the company for developing the product. Samsung prefers to keep consumers out of the way until the launch. So is the case with HTC, Google, and every major international tier-A players .
Therefore, by understanding the consumer, these brands that emerged from China have perfectly found relevance with the Indian smartphone buyer. They understand us, they cater to us and they are ready to adapt to us. Manufacturers from other parts of the world don’t do that and that is the reason they are losing out on the consumer. So, it is really not bad to have a Chinese smartphone anymore. In fact, ‘Made in China’ smartphones have become a byword for products with innovation, great build quality, and realistic price tags.