When Jai Mani revealed the price of the Poco F1 during the launch of the device, the first thought that went through most people’s minds was “OnePlus has got competition.” And with good reason. After all, the Poco F1 seems to be based on the same pricing principles: high end, flagship-level specifications. Which is why ever since the Poco F1 has gone official, speculation has been rife on the threat it poses to other brands in the “budget flagship” segment. “OnePlus should look out” is a statement that we have been hearing frequently.
Well, that might be true. But it sure is not the entire truth. For, believe us, we think the Poco F1 is likely to be a headache for more than just the budget flagship frontrunner.
After totally disrupting the market and over the course of just four years, Xiaomi is today comfortably sitting at the number one position of the smartphone market ladder. But even though the company has won many battles during its journey, if there is one battlefield where it has not quite managed to hoist its flag, it is the premium segment of smartphones. There is no denying that Xiaomi rules the sub Rs. 20,000 market but its struggle to move beyond that price band has been pretty out there as well. Although the Mi 3 remains so legendary that the Poco F1’s pricing has made people remember it afresh, the Mi 4, Mi 5, and Mi Mix 2 are all devices that the company pushed above its “safety zone” of Rs 20,000 and unfortunately, they could not quite take off like others. In fact, Xiaomi has not released a number of its high-end devices in India, one of its most successful markets – the Mi 6, the Mi 8, the Mi Mix 2s…and a few others besides.
Now, the company has introduced a sister brand to the market, Poco. Its first smartphone is the Poco F1, which comes loaded with high-end specs, and yet paired with a not-so-high-end-price. There are three variants of the smartphone in terms of configuration (there’s an Armoured Edition which has a special Kevlar back but the same specs as the highest spec variant). All share the same powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor but have different RAM and internal storage on board. The specification and prices have been quoted often enough, but let us go through them one more time:
The first variant comes with 6 GB RAM paired with 64 GB storage and is priced at Rs. 20,999. The second variant sports 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, coming with a price tag of 23,999. The third comes with a whopping 8 GB RAM combined with 256 GB storage and is priced at Rs. 28,999. The Armoured edition as the same specs as the 8 GB/ 256 GB variant but only has a different back, which bumps up the price to Rs 29,999.
If you look purely at the specs as such, the Poco F1 seems obvious competition to the flagship killer, OnePlus 6, which until this moment had been the most affordable Snapdragon 845 phone in the market, and also to the likes of the Asus ZenFone 5Z and the Honor 10. But tear your eyes away from the specs and look at those prices and you will release that there are quite a few other fish in the sea which might get caught in the F1’s fishnet.
Yes, we have had phones come out with different variants at different prices. But by and large, these variants keep the phone rooted in a particular segment. The new OnePlus 6 for instance, has three main variants between Rs 34,999 ( 6 GB/ 64 GB) and Rs 43,999 (8 Gbm/ 256 GB), but the price band in which all three remains high-end and close to premium. However, with the Poco F1, things are rather different. Poco has spread the different variants of the F1 over the Rs. 9,000 bracket (from Rs. 20,999 – Rs. 29,999) – whose lower variant is actually closer to the mid-segment, while the most expensive comes into the high-end segment. In fact, the F1 is straddling two very different price segments, thanks to this very clever pricing move.
For instance, at Rs. 20,999, it looks like an amazingly good deal for even those people looking for a device slightly above Rs. 15,000. So even someone looking at say a Nokia 6.1 Plus, the Vivo V9, a Huawei Nova 3i, a Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro, or even ironically the Mi A2, would feel tempted to spend just a little more and get top end hardware instead of being in the mid-segment. Similarly, someone considering the very good Nokia 7 Plus or the Moto X4 would think of the Rs 23,999 variant of the Poco F1. In sum, the Poco F1 is not just getting into the line of sight of those looking to spend about Rs 34,999 on a OnePlus 6 but also those who could be looking to spend Rs 16,999 on a Mi A2. Those are two very different audiences, two very different price segments.
Which is why the device could turn out to be quite a headache for many other players in the market. Although the brand Poco is new, but it comes from the house of Xiaomi and it manages to stay close enough to its mid-segment forte with its base variant even while moving beyond it with others. Given trends, the lowest variant is likely to sell the most, and given the fact that unlike previous high-end devices from Xiaomi, the base variant of the Poco F1 is not too far north of Xiaomi’s own most expensive device, the A2 (which is likely to get a 6 GB avatar shortly at a rumored Rs 18,999), the F1 could actually benefit from Xiaomi’s reputation of being a formidable mid-segment player. The more expensive variants will have to shoulder the burden of Xiaomi’s not having a successful device in the premium segment for a while now, but the base variant – the likely bestseller – could actually leverage the brand’s goodwill in the mid-segment.
Indeed, the Poco F1’s clever pricing not only widens its potential target audience but also puts a wide range of devices in its line of fire, ranging from the Nokia 6.1 Plus to the Huawei Nova 3i to the Samsung Galaxy A8+ to the Asus Zenfone 5Z, and of course, the OnePlus 6. Ironically, it also trains its guns on some of its Xiaomi cousins like the Mi A2 and the Mi Mix 2 as well as perhaps the forthcoming Mi Max 3. The F1 might look like Xiaomi’s play for the premium segment, but it actually manages to stay close to Xiaomi’s target segment even while gently stretching beyond it.
Introducing Poco might open the gate for Xiaomi to go beyond the Rs. 20,000 price barrier. But while many are focusing on what the Poco F1 could do to OnePlus, the fact that the F1 has different options spread over different price segments like peanut butter and jelly over bread means that Xiaomi’s new sister brand can kill more than the flagship killer.
(Nimish Dubey contributed to this article)