Has the Budget Smartphone Segment in India Reached Its Peak?

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India as a country is quite unique for a variety of reasons. One of them is our obsession with the best and the will to get only the best and nothing else. This mentality trickled down to the smartphone segment with the initiation of Redmi or Xiaomi in India back in early 2013. Seven years down the line, the entire market has gone through a plethora of changes, for better or for worse.

There was a time when mid-rangers were often the best deals (in the 20-40k segment), with OnePlus leading the charge in the same segment. Budget smartphones were decent, but they lacked the raw power one might require. Flagships were in a class of their own, with only brands such as OnePlus and, at times, Xiaomi breathing down their neck.

What Changed In The Market?

While there is no proof based on numbers, it is my belief that the change was ushered in with the launch of the Poco F1. A product under Rs 20k that offered a flagship processor, certain exclusive features and a decent set of cameras? Was I dreaming? Thankfully not. To date, there has been a lack of any product that had its name on the consumer's mouth as there had been for the Poco F1.

Down the line, Poco failed to bring another strong contender to the segment, with a spiritual return in early 2021 in the form of the Poco X3 Pro. However, I am of the understanding that the Poco F1 got other brands thinking.

What if the companies could provide stronger specifications for a minor hike in prices? Would that result in higher sales? The Realme 6, to me, was an example of this.

The company catapulted from a mediocre 5-series of devices to the Realme 6 series, which offered a 90Hz display, a good set of cameras, a decently sized form factor and a proper gaming chipset. The sales that followed were further proof of my belief.

Which Companies Are At Peak Now?

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When the word peak appears in my mind, I go to Redmi. They have never been on the back foot, but in recent months it seems they have stepped up their game quite a bit. They went from a slightly disappointing 9-series of smartphones to the 10-series, which, in layman’s terms, obliterated the competition.

Offering features such as a Super AMOLED panel, a 120Hz refresh rate, massive batteries, decent chipsets and a good set of cameras (including a flagship 108 MP camera) under Rs 20k? One would be forgiven for thinking they were dreaming.

Another name that comes to mind is Realme, which peaked in late 2020 rather than 2021. The company was able to provide features such as 65W charging, proper gaming chipsets, fast displays and even 5G under the Rs 20k segment, at least in the past few months.

Does This Mean Advancements are Over?

Definitely not, but with the pace that these companies have, it is not that far till the point when we see generic upgrades (something obvious with Realme) due to the lack of advancements possible in a certain price segment.

Is this a bad thing? Not at all, but it does mean that we are slowly reaching the point where either the competition is too close due to the availability of all resources or the possibility of having to wait for a generation or two for a truly market breaching product.

Reported By

Shloke is your go-to guy when it comes to consumer tech. Specializing in In-Depth pieces, he's also getting to grips with Telecom. His hobbies consist of Formula One and Gaming.

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