The Curious Case of Grey Area of Smartphones in India: Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000


We generally tend to divide smartphones into three different categories when we speak. There is a budget category, which is generally below Rs 10,000, there is a flagship category where the phones are in the regions of about Rs 34,000 and above and then there is a mid-range category which is somewhere in between. You would perhaps ask, if I strictly had to talk about the mid-range category smartphones, the price bracket in the post title would be wrong. Just like real life, the title takes into consideration ‘price drops’. A phone launched at anything below Rs 15,000 generally falls down to the sub Rs 10,000 category and a Rs 34,000 priced device will come soon tumbling below the Rs 30,000 mark. So, therefore, the former would automatically be considered a budget phone, while the latter would be a mid-ranger anyway. This leaves the Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 strictly being labeled as the mid-range and an odd category.

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Why I’m referring it to be an odd category is that, because there is no standout market leader here. We know that Samsung and Apple rule the roost when it comes to flagship phones. When was the last time you spent more than Rs 34,000 on a phone that was neither a Galaxy S/ Note device or an iPhone? High chances, that the answer is never. And that is totally justified. Similarly in the sub Rs 15,000 mark, you have manufacturers like Micromax, Xiaomi and Motorola (Lenovo) who are household names. In fact, one of the reasons why Xiaomi has struggled to sell its high-end flagships is that, that the brand has become so synonymous with the budget category that it is impossible to change that brand positioning. If you see the hit Xiaomi phones, at least in India, you would see the likes of Redmi Note 3, Mi4i, Xiaomi Mi3 and the Redmi 2 Prime, all of which were sold at prices under INR 15,000. Devices such as the Mi4 and to an extent the Mi5 have been off to a slow start because we have brands pinned category-wise in our heads.

But speak about the mid-range, and you are kind of convoluted and confused. There are some decent Lenovo phones, Asus has tried to populate the category, the likes of Motorola are present too and Samsung has some interesting offerings, oh and OnePlus cannot be really ignored. But if you are asked today to recommend a smartphone in the range of Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000,(unlike the under Rs 15,000 category where you have a ton of choices) what are the chances that you would come up with an answer that just cannot be debated. For example, I can say with hands on heart that the iPhone 6s Plus or the Galaxy S7 Edge are the best flagships out there. Similarly, the Xiaomi RedMi Note 3 and the Motorola Moto G are the best devices someone on a tight budget can buy, but what about the mid-range category?

You could make a case for a lot of devices, the likes of Nexus 5X, OnePlus 2, Motorola Moto X Play, Xiaomi Mi5 or even the Lenovo Vibe X3, all very capable and smart devices, but lacking one thing or the other. The Nexus 5X, for example, has low RAM, the OnePlus 2 has software issues, the Moto X Play lacks a fingerprint scanner, the Mi5 is available only on flash sales and the Vibe X3 not only is scarcely available but also has a custom Android skin meaning likely a  slow rollout of updates.

As a result, plenty of old flagships come into consideration in this category. The likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8, the LG G3, once the champions of their time, all of a sudden look like viable alternatives, but again, not devices that you can pick up justifying that you are getting the absolute best value for your buck. This juggling question of whether to pick a mid-ranger of today versus a flagship of yesterday is a very interesting one and perhaps is the reason along with no real standout brand that is made just for this category, why the mid-range continue to be a grey area. Even the brands that have done well here, the likes of Motorola and Lenovo have their bread and butter in the lower budget sections and for a no fault of their own, their attentions are divided. A result of which is, we do not have a phone that is a beast in mid-ranger. Perhaps, this is where Apple planned to position the iPhone SE, until the pricing just made the phone a no-go.

While we await for the birth or even a reincarnation of a Samsung or an Apple or even a Xiaomi in the middle tier, this problem of an absolute grey area will continue to trouble us. It will always be a case of, either compromise and save some cash and buy a budget smartphone or just wait for a bit and extend your budget to buy a current flagship, because honestly, you yourself know, there is no clear winner when it comes to this category.

What are your thoughts on the mid-range segment? Let us know in the section below. We would be very curious to hear from you.

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