There’s a way to do it better —find it”. There hasn’t been a time when these words of Thomas A. Edison seemed truer for the smartphone industry of India. Let’s proudly admit, we have travelled a long way in making user experience better each day. We all remember the time when having a phone was a thing to flaunt. To look back, not only were handsets expensive but call charges were prohibitive during those days. Moving fast forward to 2017, the mobile industry in India has undergone a complete transformation. We are not only the fastest growing smartphone market in the world, but also the second largest market for smartphones, according to a recent report.
To everyone’s agreement, we can say that the year 2017 will be remembered as the year of transition for the smartphone industry. The industry in India witnessed major disruptions that fueled the demand for smartphones in the country. The government’s Digital India initiative and demonetisation and the subsequent rise in mobile payments and digital currency usage such as BHIM, UPI, Samsung Pay and other digital
payment platforms ushered in a new use case for smartphones, therein making it an indispensable part of our lives.
Today, India has become the second largest smartphone market overtaking the US. We also witnessed a data revolution in the telecom industry with the rise of Reliance Jio 4G. Samsung did its bit by providing the nation-wide network for Jio in India.
Currently, there are a large number of players in the smartphone industry and the healthy competition among these players has driven down handset prices. Ditto for data! Voice calls and data prices have been coming down steadily and today India has the cheapest 4G data packs across the world. These trends have proven well for India, a market known to be extremely price sensitive.
Moving to 2018, it is going to be the year of path-breaking innovations for the smartphone industry. Clearly, technology is bringing about paradigm shifts in the way we connect, communicate, exchange information and conduct our day-to-day lives. It is making innovations possible and driving demand. As we move ahead on the technology front, the dominant trends that will encapsulate the market will be Artificial Intelligence (AI), advent and proliferation of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT).
Smartphones embedded with AI and IoT
Smartphones today are becoming smarter. The intelligent assistants that sit unnoticed on our smartphones has quietly taken over many of the functions which we manually did earlier. This will go big now. AI has given us speech recognition, more effective web search and self-driving cars, among other innovations. Similarly, IoT will open up entirely new range of possibilities and the way we use our mobile phones. Imagine a world where all our home appliances are connected to the internet and are able to do things without our intervention. That is the kind of promise IoT holds. It is not just automation, but also intelligent communication between devices, pivoted on big data and analytics.
Fast changing network transition
As India is fast heading towards complete digitisation and over a billion people having direct access to mobile phones and smartphones, technological developments and innovations are also moving fast. There has been faster transition on the network front—transition from 2G network to 3G and 4G and now moving towards 5G network. The 3G era took more than a decade.
However, since then, the industry has made rapid strides and 4G has completely eclipsed 3G technology. Now 5G is on its way. 5G will deliver data transfer speeds that are up to 200 times faster than the current 4G networks. 5G will make it possible for users to enjoy rich 4K video and more immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences. Here too, Samsung will lead the way.
Coming together of wearables and smartphones
Coming to the wearables industry, it is said that wearables will ultimately replace phones. Though this might seem to be an over-ambitious statement, what is more likely to happen is that smartphones and wearables will complement each other.
As technology is going the smaller way by the day, a variety of sensors and other tech are getting embedded into wearable
gadgets. Most of these rely on smartphone connectivity, cloud storage and local
processing power. Examples include health monitoring, tracking of activities, environmental sensing, data analytics and recording, collaboration, authentication, amongst others.
As we move forward, we will see an amalgamation and integration of wearable devices and IoT. As far as the wearable industry is concerned, stupendous growth is what is in the offing.
Industry experts estimate that the spending on wearable tech is slated to reach $19 billion by 2018. Over 150 million wearable devices are expected to ship by 2020. The key drivers include expansion of wireless capacity (thanks to Wi-Fi, WiMAX and LTE), saturation of the mobile market, reducing cost of data and support from corporate behemoths.
While we will see great innovations as the top-line trend, faster adoption of smartphones in rural India, especially in tier 3 and tier 4 cities will be a game changer for the smartphone industry in India in 2018. Overall, the Indian smartphone and wearable industries are poised to witness the next wave of growth from tier 3 and tier 4 cities, driven by faster internet, smart cities, localised content, cheaper devices, tumbling tariffs, cheaper bank loans and a good monsoon.