As most of you know, budget smartphones have gotten a lot better in the last year or two. There are a number of affordable offerings out there which can compete with a much higher-priced devices. These handsets are usually not released by the most popular OEMs, and as we all know, consumers definitely appreciate branding, at least most of them do. People definitely don’t react the same when you mention Samsung and OnePlus, for example, most of them haven’t even heard of OnePlus in fact. That being said, it seems like things are starting to change, at least to a certain degree, read on.
Considering the fact budget offerings have become far better than they were before, they seem to be selling a lot better as well. People seem to find less and less reasons to spend $700-800 on a phone, when they can buy one unlocked for a fraction of that price. Now, if we take a look at Gartner’s latest report on smartphone worldwide market share in Q3 this year (image below this paragraph), we’ll notice that Samsung and Apple are still far ahead as far as market share goes. Well, that might be true, but the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place is occupied by companies whose devices are, for the most part really affordable, Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi, All three of these companies have significantly increased their market share in the last year or two, and the main reason are their affordable devices which are being sold all over the world, though Lenovo and Xiaomi do most of their dealings in Asia.
So, if branding isn’t all that important to you, and you’ve heard that a specific budget-oriented device is really, really capable, why buy premium? Well, there is basically no reason to do that any longer. OnePlus 2, OnePlus X, Meizu MX5, Meizu PRO 5, Moto G (2015), Moto X Style / Pure, Xiaomi Mi 4C, Xiaomi Redmi Note 2, Asus ZenFone 2, Huawei Honor 7… and many more devices can be considered quite compelling, and yet, they’re not that expensive. Let me give you a couple of examples here, Moto G (2015) is a very capable and yet extremely affordable device, but is not something those of you looking for powerful specs would buy. Well, there’s something for you out in the market as well, Meizu PRO 5 is powered by the Exynos 7420, has 4GB of RAM (one variant), offers great build, camera and display, and yet it costs way less than Galaxy S6 (Edge), Note 5, LG G4 and some other devices available out there. Moto X Style / Pure is also a great example of a device which sports great specs and doesn’t cost much, and so is the OnePlus 2. There are plenty such examples we could talk about, but these examples speak for themselves. With such device you get amazing performance, some would argue on par with the most expensive devices out in the market, if not better. Same goes for audio, camera, battery life and pretty much everything else. Affordable device were a synonym for serious compromise in the past, but that’s simply not the case anymore, not by a long shot. Well, that trend will quite probably continue next year, and that brings up a number of rather interesting questions.
At this point, it seems like big-name companies won’t be able to rely on branding for much longer. Branding will always be important to some people, but it seems like more of them either don’t care about it as much, or simply don’t have enough cash to splash out on more expensive devices. No matter what reason lays behind it, affordable devices are selling really well at the moment, and it seems like the trend will continue next year as well. 2016 will certainly be a very exciting year for techies, and we’ll probably see plenty more great phones released. The question that remains though, will Huawei, Meizu, Xiaomi, Asus… and other brands who offer affordable devices, influence Samsung and Apple to lower their pricing in the long run? Well, that will hardly happen anytime soon, but considering Apple released the iPhone 5C a while back, and the fact Samsung is way more focused on budget devices now… well, it might happen, anything is possible.
So, what to expect next? Will Asus once again manage to release a great ZenFone 3 handset, will OnePlus out do themselves with the OnePlus 3? Will Samsung and Apple be forced to change due to the competition whose devices are far more affordable and are becoming more popular? Well, nobody can answer that at the moment, but one thing is for sure, big-name companies have definitely noticed the influence of all the companies we’ve mentioned today, and a number of additional ones out there. Xiaomi has big plans for next year and intends to enter the US market, Letv will be selling their devices in the US soon as well, and Meizu is probably planning something for the future as well. It is also worth mentioning that there are a ton of additional companies which are slowly getting market share, and haven’t been mentioned here just yet, simply because it’s impossible to fit them all in here. All in all, it starts to feel like budget is the new premium, especially considering the quality certain OEMs are able to offer. What are your thoughts here? Do you think big players will remain relatively unaffected in the coming year, or do you think we’re in for some serious changes in the market? How important is branding to you?