When OnePlus emerged onto the smartphone scene, it was not clear where it was cutting costs. So clearly, the OnePlus One (pictured on the left) was pushed aside and shoved into the category of “Chinese smartphones”. Well, its been a year and OnePlus has just announced its all-new OnePlus 2 smartphone, that not only delivers class-leading hardware (minus NFC) but stays grounded on its price tag as well.
OnePlus and Xiaomi are just proving a point. It is possible to build a low-cost flagship smartphone.
However, there is nothing low cost about these devices. From Xiaomi to OnePlus and now even Motorola, value for money has become an increasingly important factor (at least for the Android crowd).
Everyone else can buy an iPhone, because we can already see what has happened to Samsung even after they came up with a product as polished as the Galaxy S6, they failed.
The Chinese problem...
A clear sign of defeat against brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus, is Motorola who now seems to have bended and priced its newest flagship, the Moto X Style, in line with Chinese (pssst... Lenovo owns Motorola by the way!).
So it goes to show that low-cost flagship smartphones are picking up. However, this only applies to Android, as Apple fans seem to be happy turning the company’s quarters into a record-breaking ones.
More so, as the current news goes, Samsung will be dropping the price tags of its Galaxy S6 series as well. But big brands have not given in yet, there is a new segment booming out here in the form of handsets like the Galaxy A8 and the LG G4 Beat. But the one who pushed out the philosophy was none other than Microsoft.
The rise of the budget flagships
Microsoft delivered what could be called the first ‘budget flagship’ device. It was the Nokia Lumia 830. Stephen Elop referred to it as a “budget flagship”. A device that came with a budget chipset, but included the imaging chops that could be compared to flagship devices.
The Nokia Lumia 830 is however, still a great buy at Rs 23,000; but its 1 GB of RAM is a bit worrying when it comes to Windows 10 (and the Continuum experience). But Microsoft is outing its own arsenal of flagship devices to counter that.
Coming to the recent ones, we have the LG G4 Beat, which was recently announced by LG for global markets.
From afar it looked like your typical “mini” version of the flagship G4. Look a bit deeper into the spec sheet and you will notice the camera chops do offer performance and hardware that on par with its elder flagship sibling. It even includes laser-assisted autofocus and a dual tone flash both of which support that 8 MP module with a Colour Spectrum Sensor.
Soon after that, we saw the unofficial announcement of the Samsung Galaxy A8. Even though it came with hardware that could be considered budget (the Xiaomi Mi 4i has them), Samsung did load it up with some other goodies.
There’s the all metal body, that makes it Samsung’s slimmest smartphone yet. Next up is the Galaxy S6 inspired design (looks better if you ask us) and it even includes a fingerprint scanner! Also there is the camera, which includes an OIS unit for its 16 MP sensor coupled with a bright f/1.9 aperture lens.
So yes, big brand manufacturers are dealing with cost cuts in their own little ways. But for how long will they sustain such products, is something that they already know.
Now that it is a proven theory, big brands will have to bend and give in to lower prices, even if that means cutting down on their massive advertising budgets, events and focussing on just customer service.
Samsung has even pre-poned their Galaxy Unpacked event this year to keep up with the times.
Low cost flagships are clearly going nowhere. There’s just more of them that are going to flood the market in the coming months, and these could arrive from big name brands like Sony, Samsung and HTC as well.