Not everyone seems to get it, but the last twelve months have seen a radical change in the smartphone world. Last year at around this time, it was impossible to think of getting a decent phone for anything less than USD 200 and if you were looking for flagship material, you had to be ready to unburden your wallet by at least twice that amount. Phones were accompanied by high-profile ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements. If you had to purchase a terrific phone, you were torn between Apple, HTC, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and LG.

Fast forward to today and well, things seem different. Markedly so. You can now get a very good smartphone for as little as USD 110, and flagships start at around USD 250. And guess what? The company that sold the most 4G handsets in the Indian market as per some reports, does not even have an ad campaign, leave alone a celebrity endorsing it. And if you want a terrific phone today, well, the regulars are there, but are by no means dominant. Cutting into their segment massively are devices from Xiaomi, OnePlus, Lenovo, YU, Motorola and Asus. One of the most coveted things in technology today is an invite for the OnePlus One!

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Yes, a lot has changed, proving something we love to repeat – a year is a very long time in technology. The odd part, however, is that a lot of the traditional players do not seem to realise this and are sticking to the old strategy of high prices for perceived niche products, celeb endorsements and massive ad campaigns. No, we do not see ourselves as prophets, but we really think that the older players need to adapt to the new market fast, and follow its commandments, seven of the most important of which are:

Thou need NOT be expensive to be a great phone

This is perhaps the biggest change that has hit the market. Be it a good entry level device or a flagship, prices have come down. Massively. The “you have to pay a premium for a premium experience” rationale is pretty much history. In fact, the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus are offering flagship level performance at prices that are a fraction of established players. An equation doing the rounds at Twitter is that you can get a Mi 4 AND a OnePlueOne for the price of a similarly specced HTC One M8.

Expect not loyalty from thy followers – innovate, innovate!

The consumer can get Android devices with similar hardware from several manufacturers. Don’t expect him or her to go to you just because they had a good experience in the past. Keep innovating, because your competition is doing just that. A year ago, very few outside the geek crowd in India had heard of Xiaomi and OnePlus. Today, they are holding their own against brands that had been around for a longer time.

The word of social networking more than matcheth that of advertising

Xiaomi has pretty much torn up the marketing and advertising form book, riding high on word of mouth and social advertising. And other brands like OnePlus and Honor are following suit. No, we are not saying that “routine” advertising does not work, but what cannot be denied is that social networks with their interactivity can be just as, and in some cases more, effective.

Seeketh thou a celeb for your phone? Proceed, but be warned: it might worketh not!

The Moto G (both generations), the Xiaomi Mi 3, the Xiaomi Mi 4, the Moto E, the Xiaomi Redmi 1S, the Lenovo Vibe X2, the YU Yureka…all came with no celebrity endorsement and still got sold out within hours of being available. On the other hand, Samsung, HTC and LG have trotted out celebrities for its devices at regular intervals and yet could not muster the same kind of buzz. No, we have nothing against celebrities but really, getting a celebrity to endorse a product is no longer going to ensure sales. A product with a terrific spec-price ratio allied with a celebrity might work, but at the end of the day, it is the product that needs to be the star.

The word ‘brand’ no longer hath the power it once possessed..

It is dreadfully simple – people will no longer buy a phone simply because it is from a particular company (Apple manages to remain an aberration, though). A name is no longer a guarantee. A year ago, we could not have imagined a phone from an unknown Chinese brand generating greater excitement than a Samsung or a Nokia. Today, ah…

…because yea, the people know!

Blame it on the endless hands-on sessions, the spec sheet highlighting and of course, the whole tech blogging phenomenon, but there is simply too much information out there for a company to bluff its way through. The Mi 4 and the new Moto E were very good devices and came with terrific prices but were both taken to task for not supporting 4G. The days when a presenter could come on stage and claim that a fixed focus camera was better than auto focus or that people did not use apps, are history. The people know, and will be heard! If anything, spokespersons now have to spend more time ensuring that the wrong information does not get out.

Yea, and people doth purchase phones online…verily and line up for them too

The whole “people need to see and feel before they buy” logic has been pretty much rendered redundant, as the flash sales model success of a number of brands prove. People will buy online provided they feel that they are getting a good deal. Which is perhaps where social networking comes in.

No, we are not saying that following these seven will ensure success, but yes, ignoring them could result in disaster.


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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.