When LG unveiled its G4 flagship day before, it rounded off the flagship fleet for the current Android generation, the most notable of which are the Samsung S6 Edge, the HTC One M9, the Sony Xperia Z4, the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro, the Honor 6 Plus, the Nexus 6, the Moto Turbo, the Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro, the Asus ZenFone 2, and the OnePlus One.
Cast a look at that list, factor in the fact that most pundits expect the LG G4 to cost in the vicinity of (and some even say well in excess of) USD 650, and a divide becomes visible. On the one hand, you have devices that offer a premium experience at a premium price (generally well above USD 600 and some even close to four figures) in which you have the likes of the One M9, the Xperia Z4, the S6 Edge, the Nexus 6 (oh, the irony!), the Moto Turbo and the G4, and on the other you have devices that claim to offer a similar experience but at prices that are lower, and in some cases, embarrassingly lower than what the premium priced flagships cost – for instance, the OnePlus One comes with a price tag of under USD 350 in India, and the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro costs around USD 371. Even the relatively ‘expensive’ device in that group, the Vibe Z2 Pro comes for about USD 475 in India.
Counter balance that with the fact that the most affordable device of the ‘premium’ segment, the Moto Turbo (Moto Maxx globally), sells for about USD 660 in India, and it becomes apparent that there is a new split in the Android flagship segment.
On the one hand, you have the premium pricing players, and on the other is a breed of manufacturers looking to deliver great specs at a relatively lower price. Hey, the world’s first smartphone with 4GB RAM, the Asus ZenFone 2’s most expensive avatar comes for as little as USD 363 in India, and the Honor 6 Plus throws in dual 8.0-megapixel cameras for about USD 419.
The differences extend beyond pricing – the lower priced players seem to rely heavily on selling exclusively online and on social networking campaigns while the premium players stick to conventional channels of sales as well as media (ad campaigns in print and electronic media still rule for them). And while the higher priced brands tend to train their guns on the iPhone, the lower priced ones are not averse to taking a poke at their higher priced brethren.
Now, we know that there are those who will say that there were always high-priced flagships and relatively lower priced ones, but what we would like to point out is that in the past, the ‘lower priced flagships‘ came from local brands which fought mainly on price and generally compromised on specs, performance and even design. Now, anyone who has seen a OnePlus One, a Honor 6 Plus, ZenFone 2, a Mi Note Pro or a Vibe Z2 Pro will tell you that they pull no punches in the design, hardware or performance departments.
A year ago, people looking for a high-end Android device were torn between the HTC One series, the Samsung Galaxy S series, the Sony Xperia Z series and the LG G series. Today, people still think of this awesome foursome, but – and this is quite a massive ‘but’ – they are also considering the offerings from what we call the ‘high spec – low price‘ price players. There are those who insist that a person wanting a premium device will not even think of investing in a much lower priced device, but if we had a penny for every time someone has asked us whether they should go for a OnePlus One or HTC One M8 (the One M9 had not been released at the time), we would have made a pretty penny. No, we are not saying that the “high spec – low price” players will clean out the premium priced ones, as some pundits are saying – but judging from the success enjoyed by the likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus and Lenovo, they are certainly not doing badly at all. They might not have the sort of ‘brand equity’ built over time that the likes of Samsung, HTC, Sony or LG have, but what they do possess are killer prices with a very decent hardware-design blend.
The premium segment might prefer to stick to its higher-price tags, but what cannot be denied is that there is a new kind of flagship docking in the Android harbor. It does not look bad at all, it has a pretty powerful crew in terms of hardware and software, and those wanting a cruise on it need not shell out a premium price. It will not sink the exclusive premier high-end fleet yet, but it will give consumer an alternative to shelling out a bomb for high quality.
Yeah, Android just got a bit more fragmented. And this time, it is not on OS versions, but on flagship prices.
And this is one fragmentation we are not complaining about. Not one bit.