Android the next big thing in India?

Canalys' report on the Q3 2010 global smartphone market share is making news across tech websites and attracting a lot of comments. Here are the key points in the report:
1) The worldwide smartphone market has grown 95% over the previous year. In the BRIIC countries (which includes India), the smartphone market grew by 112% which is more than the overall growth. Incidentally, smartphones are estimated to be approximately 8% of the market in India in 2010.
2) In terms of brand leadership, Nokia remains the worldwide leader in the smartphone market with 33% share (down from 38% last year), followed by Apple (17%) and RIM/Blackberry (15%). RIM has lost its second position in global smartphone market share to Google
3) However, in India, Nokia continues to hold 65% of the smartphone market showing 208% YoY growth, while RIM holds 18%, an increase in volumes of over 412%
4) Worldwide, the Android operating system has grown over 1000% and now holds 25% of the global market.
5) In the US, the world's largest smartphone market, the brand leader is now Apple with 26% share, while RIM has lost nearly 8 percentage points and has 24% market share. In terms of Operating System however, Android is now the largest OS in the US, with 44% market share.

The overall take out from this is the exploding smartphone market and the phenomenal growth of Android as a viable competitor to Apple's iOS.

The report also indicates that growth in the Indian market may not follow the world trend - highlighted by the fact that Nokia and RIM's shipments have increased in India while declining elsewhere. From an Indian perspective, well priced smartphones in the Rs. 10,000-20,000 range have possibly driven the growth of the category, coming from reputable and even aspirational brands, which buyers have always preferred in India.  The success of the Nokia N and E Series and even the BB Curve, highlight this.

But Android has shown the world that equations can change rapidly - in fact all the change and growth has happened in the last year since the launch of the Nexus One. And many of the top Android branded phones are yet to hit our shores (the absence of HTC android phones from the shelves of major retailers like Croma is a case in point, and a sore one)

So how can Android become big in India? The answer lies in Google's recent announcement to support homegrown Indian manufacturers like Micromax, Spice and Olive to launch Android powered phones at under Rs. 10,000. According to India Today, Micromax and Spice will be launching Android phones in the Rs. 6000-8000 range, with more Indian manufacturers set to follow suit. Videocon has launched Zeus and Spice will launch Mi300 soon - both phones cost under Rs. 10k

There is a question mark over the hardware that can be offered at this price range and what kind of apps it will be able to run, but nonetheless, it will run some version of Android. And since these manufacturers would not want to invest in developing their own interfaces like HTC's Sense or Samsung's Touch Wiz, it seems that these handsets might feature the pure Android interface which is not a bad thing at all, as it would get direct updates from Google. It would only get a boost when 3G comes into the picture.

And the local manufacturers are already a force to reckon with in India. Micromax ships 1 million handsets a month and commands more than 4% of market share, while all low cost handset manufacturers together accounted for 14% of market share according to Economic Times.

The middle end segment (Rs. 10,000-15,000) should see some action too. Symbian 3, according to tech rumors, is ultimately destined to not drive Nokia's top end phones (MeeGo and Qt will), but go onto middle range smartphones.Samsung too has launched the Galaxy i900 Android phone at Rs. 12,000 and HTC should follow suit with budget models.

I am personally excited by the prospect of a Rs. 6000 phone powered by 3G and running Android. It could turn the market around. Hell, it could convince me to switch sometimes, as I agonise over whether its really worth spending Rs.30,000 on a top end phone!


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