With a 79.3% global marketshare (as per IDC), Android sure has become the dominant of the smartphone world. What’s more interesting is Android’s market share in India — a whopping 91 percent (in the second quarter of 2013). What has made Android such a ubiquitous mobile platform in this country? Let’s reverse the timeline a little before the Android train started its crazy journey.
Before a variety of Android phones started selling in India, Symbian and BlackBerry were the two dominating smartphone operating systems here. While Nokia had simply retooled its ageing OS to work with touch-screens, BlackBerry kept pushing BlackBerry Instant Messenger (BBM) and inexpensive QWERTY handsets as their two-prong approach to grab marketshare. While most people lusted the finger-friendly, multi-touch gestural interface of the iPhone, its high-end price tag kept it away from many hands. This is exactly where Android hit the nail right on the head! By enabling a reasonably usable touchscreen experience at affordable price points with a healthy number of apps, Android quickly became the de-facto choice when opting for a smartphone.
But Android wasn’t just about affordability; it was about the benefits one can reap out of having a relatively open platform. From changing the look and feel of your phone entirely, to replacing core apps with 3rd party ones of your choice, you can go nuts with tweaking the phone to levels that you just cannot with platforms like iOS or Windows Phone. Plus, a huge trend that clicked in India was dual SIM; and currently Android is the biggest Smartphone OS that supports it.
As an effect of Android’s success, a troubled Nokia left Symbian and decided to only make smartphones that run Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. While BlackBerry’s lack of getting up-to-speed with changing trends in the smartphone landscape helped Android gobble up its users too. BBM was no longer relevant because of multi-platform services like WhatsApp that mimicked its functionality, thereby destroying the sole reason to own a BlackBerry. Also, users started seeing less value in their comparatively-pricey BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) that one compulsorily had to subscribe to to use Internet-enabled services on their handsets. Today, new BlackBerry phones running BB10 can work on a typical 2G and 3G plan.
Affordability is an important factor for Android’s popularity in India. Unlike many countries where mobile operators offer subsidies on handsets in lieu of a multi-year contract, outright purchase is the way it works here. The Average Sale Price (ASP) of a smartphone is roughly $200 and is expected to decline further (Rs. 12,400). So, for every new flagship handset being launched above Rs. 40,000, there are countless inexpensive handsets bought by people which could potentially be bringing the ASP down.
So now, why is Android important in India?
– Because it has given users a chance to get a taste of what a modern-day smartphone can do for them, without burning a hole through their pocket. Getting access to quality Google services like Maps, YouTube, Gmail etc. along with the 9 lakh+ apps on the Play Store. Not to say these cheap handsets offer the best experience, but they’re getting better by the day.
– Because it has helped create new local brands in India that offer value-for-money handsets to the consumers. Thanks to the lack of any restrictions, companies like Micromax, Lava, Karbonn etc. are free to take a potent smartphone OS and package it into hardware of their choice.
– Local phone makers have put tremendous pressure on multi-national phone companies to push innovation to the next level, and to put more in their handsets than just their brand value. As of today, big wigs like HTC, BlackBerry, LG and Apple (although I doubt they care) are NOT in the Top 5 selling Smartphone maker’s list in India. Whereas, Micromax ranks second; right behind Samsung and Karbonn is in the third spot.
– Because of the widespread nature of Android, new products are now focused on getting Android versions of their apps out the door along with iOS. Thus, even a sub-Rs.15k handset has access to trending apps like Instagram, Vine, Flipboard, Pintrest, SnapChat, Dropbox much like the iPhone can.
Rohan Naravane manages the content for PriceBaba.com. He is usually found rambling tech on Twitter @r0han.