“Samsung will hit back…and it will hit back hard!”
Those had been the words of a Xiaomi executive when the Chinese brand had overtaken Samsung in the Indian smartphone market in early 2018. The Korean brand did not quite react as swiftly and ruthlessly as he and many others had expected, although there were rumors that a room in Samsung’s India office had been dedicated to tackling the Chinese newcomer. However, towards the end of 2018, the signs were that Samsung was finally going to go head-on against Xiaomi. The announcement of the M series of devices was indeed seen as the first step to provide a Samsung alternative in Xiaomi’s strongest segment, the sub-Rs 15,000 one. The company announced two M series devices in January, the Galaxy M10 and the Galaxy M20, pricing both very competitively indeed when compared with the-then offerings from Xiaomi and other players in the segment. Samsung executives said that more devices would follow. Battle, it seemed, had finally and firmly been joined – and we said as much in an article.
That, however, was almost nothing compared to the array of launches from the Korean brand last week. Even as the tech world was talking about the Galaxy S10 series of devices, launched at the eve of MWC, Samsung launched four devices in the Indian market in the space of 24 hours. Interestingly, within those 24 hours came Xiaomi’s own high profile launch of the Redmi Note 7 and the Note 7 Pro.
Yeah, SIX phones in about 24 hours from two brands. And most of them targeted at similar audiences.
Xiaomi had announced well in advance that the Redmi Note 7 would be launched on February 28. And rumors were rife that the phone would be priced in the vicinity of Rs 15,000, with some saying it might even come with a higher price tag, given the presence of a 48-megapixel sensor on the device.
On the evening preceding the launch, Samsung launched the third device in its M series, the Galaxy M30, boasting an array of triple cameras, 5000 mAh battery and an AMOLED display at Rs 14,999. The next day, within hours of the launch of the Redmi Note 7 and Note 7 Pro, Samsung announced three A series devices – the A10, the A30 and A50 – at price points of Rs 8,490, Rs 16,990 and Rs 19,990, respectively. It was an incredibly competitively priced array of devices, and there was no mistaking the target.
“Basically, they have challenged everything Xiaomi has in the market, from the Redmi 6 to the Poco F1,” a friend in the retail community (who does sport a rather large Samsung banner on his store) remarked. “And that too in just a period of twenty-four hours. This is Samsung being Samsung! I cannot imagine any other company releasing devices across such a wide spectrum at this level.” Many others, Xiaomi executives included, however, seemed to see this as a sign of just how concerned Samsung was about the Redmi Note 7, given the popularity of the Note series in the Indian market (it would be one of the top brands on its own steam).
Some might consider the launch of these devices at the same time as Xiaomi’s mid-segment mainstay as just be a coincidence, but given the scale and pricing of the devices, we honestly do not think so. And neither do most of the folks we have spoken to. For most of them, this was a case of Samsung declaring, to paraphrase a Steve Jobs expression, “thermonuclear war” on Xiaomi. “This is pretty much Samsung saying, ‘we can do this, handle it if you can’,” a colleague of ours remarked. “And Samsung is not charging as great a premium for itself as it did in the past. The A series would generally be priced significantly above what Xiaomi had to offer for similar specs, but with these phones, Samsung is pretty much taking on Xiaomi with both the A and M series.”
A closer look at that statement shows its accuracy. The Redmi Note 7 starts at Rs 9,999, while the Galaxy M20 starts at Rs 10,990. The Redmi Note 7 Pro starts at Rs 13,999 and goes up against the M30 which starts at Rs 14,990. The 6 GB/ 128 GB edition of the Redmi Note 7 Pro starts at Rs 16,999, where it squares off against both the M30 and A30. Of course, at Rs 19,999, the very promisingly specced Galaxy A50 not only takes on Xiaomi’s budget flagship, the Poco F1, which also starts at around the same price point. And of course, the combination of six Samsung phones between Rs 7,990 and Rs 22,990 are broadly covering most of Xiaomi India’s bestsellers, including devices of the Y series, Xiaomi’s own A series and more affordable Redmi devices. Yes, there are other brands that have phones in that price segment too, most notably Realme, Honor, Vivo, Oppo, Asus, and Nokia, but to think that are the real targets behind Samsung’s recent spate of releases would be, perhaps, naive.
Remember the date well. On February 27-28, Samsung went toe to toe with Xiaomi. We can hear consumers cheering already as they get more options than ever before. As for the tech community, bloggers, YouTubers, and et al, one of them summed up the situation aptly when he heard of the launch of the Galaxy A Series within an hour of the launch of the Redmi Note 7 and 7 Pro:
“Fight! Fight! Grab some popcorn.”
That might be a little extreme, but we could be seeing one of the biggest smartphone confrontations in the Indian market for a while. Perhaps the biggest ever.
Watch this space.