In a first, the country’s smartphone market fell by 4% in the October-December period last year as compared with the previous quarter, research firm IDC said on Tuesday.
Overall, mobile phone shipments in one of the world’s fastest growing handset markets stood at 64.3 million units in Q4 2014, reflecting a quarter-on-quarter drop of 11% over Q3 2014 and an annual drop of 5%. “India’s smartphone market observed shipment contraction in Q4 for the first time ever (q-o-q basis). This was largely owing to a high channel inventory at the beginning of the quarter amongst general trade which in turn was caused by the surge witnessed in online sales during festive season,” IDC said in a statement.
The fourth quarter in 2014 was seen as a “correction phase” wherein the smartphone market declined by 4%, while the feature phone market tanked by around 14% over July-September 2014, it added. Going ahead, IDC projects a sluggish January-March 2015. However, few global vendors who were in the inventory correction phase until now are likely to exhibit big shipment numbers starting Q1.
“Operators are gearing up for 4G network rollout. For vendors and ecosystem partners, greater emphasis on 4G-enabled handsets at competitive price points will be the order of the day. End-users’ desire to upgrade and keeping abreast with the latest technology will continue to drive a strong growth for the smartphone market in 2015,” IDC Research Manager (Client Devices) Kiran Kumar said.
In the smartphone category in October-December 2014, Korean electronics giant Samsung maintained its leadership in India with 22% market share, followed by homegrown vendors Micromax (18%), Intex (8%) and Lava (7%) and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi with 4% share, IDC said. In the mobile phone segment (smartphones and feature phones), Samsung again led the market with 17% share followed by Micromax (15%), Nokia (10%) and Intex and Lava at 8%, each, it added.
The news comes as a shot in the arm for Samsung, which is facing sluggish sales and intense competition in India from domestic rivals like Micromax and Lava as well as global brands like Xiaomi and Motorola.
Yesterday, IDC said the electronics giant has been dethroned as top tablet vendor in the Indian market by domestic firm iBall. Mumbai-based iBall overtook Samsung in the Indian tablet market with 15.6% share in the October-December quarter, which saw total shipments of 0.96 million units. Last month, another research firm Canalys said Micromax (22% share) had overtaken Samsung (20%) as number one seller in the last quarter of 2014, while various research firms like Counterpoint and GfK pegged Samsung as a leader in the Indian smartphone market.
On Samsung, IDC said: “Samsung maintained its leadership position in Q4 2014. Apple posted stiff competition to Samsung during this time. ‘Online exclusive’ brands are hurting the brand in the value for money category.”
Micromax witnessed an inventory correction in Q4 2014 owing to high inventories pumped into the channels during the previous quarter (Q3 2014), it added.
“Xiaomi’s ‘online only’ strategy has paid off well. Q4 was the first complete quarter for the brand. Even with minor hiccups like temporary ban on a particular handset model, the brand made it to top 5 smartphone vendor list,” the research firm said.
Shipment contribution from vendors like Asus, Microsoft and HTC has witnessed traction in the recent past. Asus’s growth is somewhat linked to the handset vendor itself. On the other hand, Microsoft and HTC has more aggressively priced product to offer, it added.