Dear HTC and Samsung,
We followed your events around the One M9 and the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge last night with a good deal of interest. First off, a quick note of congratulations on what seem to be very good devices indeed in terms of design and hardware – a sight for sore eyes, be they mainstream or geek ones.
We, however, are beginning to wonder if you ladies and gentlemen know where your competition is coming from. A couple of years ago, one would have pointed to Cupertino. Today, I am not too sure. For, while there is no doubt that the iPhone remains THE phone to beat in the smartphone segment, it is the newer players in Android that you should be more worried about, in my very humble opinion.
The likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus, that are slowly but steadily turning the price-specification equation on its head. And are picking up massive market shares along the way (Xiaomi just took the numero uno slot in China). And their examples are being followed by a number of players, some of them relatively older ones – the past few months have seen the likes of Lenovo, Xiaomi, Motorola, Huawei and Asus come up with devices that are high in specs and relatively low in price. And these are finding takers and as they tend to get sold out very fast indeed, have got significant aspirational value – there have been more people asking about OnePlus One invites than about the Galaxy Edge, to be brutally blunt.
Yes, there have always been lower priced devices in the market. But in the past, these came with very significant hardware, design and performance compromises. Today, we must confess that we like the feel and performance of devices like the OnePlus One, the Xiaomi Mi 4 and the Huawei Honor 6 a lot more than some phones that are almost two to three times as expensive. And this is the reason why these devices are selling out in seconds. Yes, most of them are only available online and not through conventional retail (which still accounts for the vast majority of smartphone sales), but the very fact that a Xiaomi could take over the number one place in the Chinese smartphone market through its model shows that there are takers for it.
But what, you might ask, does all this have to do with the launch of the One M9 and the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge?
Just this: that I think your real competition comes not from Cupertino, which has managed to cocoon itself from the Android opposition not matter how much better specced and designed it may be (for the record we think the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z3 were both better designed than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus), but from these new players, which are rapidly eating up not just your market share, but more significantly are also invading consumer mindspace.
We are going to be blunt: the S6, S6 Edge or the One M9 are not likely to ruffle their feathers.
For, from what we have learnt, for all their wonderful design, performance and hardware, the S6, the S6 Edge and the One M9 are each likely to cost a pretty penny – in the region of USD 650, we hear. The Mi Note Pro, which is Xiaomi’s current flagship and sports hardware that can be compared to an extent with these worthies (it does have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 4GB RAM and is very easy on the eye too) is priced at around USD 375. And if our peek into the offerings of OnePlus, Huawei, Lenovo and Asus are correct, even they are aiming to stay south of the USD 350 mark with their main offerings. No, we do not think their consumer base (which is growing) is likely to be swayed by what you showed us at Barcelona.
So which part of the market are these phones aimed at? At the iPhone users? Honestly, while some might be tempted by the superb design and hardware on offer in this threesome, history shows that the vast majority tends to be loyal, not least because they are tied into Apple’s ecosystem of apps, music and multimedia. We can see your loyalists upgrading to these new devices but that apart, we are not too sure.
No, we are not saying that the One M9 and S6 are bad devices. Nay, they seem awesome in terms of design and specifications. We are just wondering if they are what you needed at this point of time. A time when it is becoming increasingly apparent that flagships just need to come off their high price points and become a bit more mainstream. ‘tis the age when the popular is outstripping the premium, which come to think of it, was the core aim of Android.
Congratulations once again on your launches. And we wish them the very best. What concerns us, however, is that these do not seem to be aimed to discomfit your competition. Or what we think is your real competition.
Which lies not in Cupertino.
But in China.