India’s Premium Smartphone Segment: Samsung Regains Pole Position while OnePlus 6T continues to be the Best-Seller in Q1 2019

Samsung regained the top spot in India’s premium segment (≥₹30,000 or roughly ≥US$430) in Q1 2019, after losing out to OnePlus three quarters in a row. Initial uptake for the Galaxy S10 series drove Samsung to the leadership position in the premium segment. The India launch of the Galaxy S10 series came soon after the global release. The Samsung Galaxy S10 series offers features such as multiple camera sensors with ultra-wide photography, Infinity-O display, ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, wireless power share, and others.

Meanwhile, OnePlus dropped to the second position in the premium segment as it underwent its seasonal cycle.  The OnePlus 6T remained the best-selling premium smartphone in Q1 2019, a title it has held since its launch.

The success of Galaxy S10 series and OnePlus 6T highlights the trend of an expanding the premium segment in India. Users, who are buying their second or third smartphone, are already considering an upgrade into the premium segment. Another reason for the growth in the premium segment is a plethora of offers and installment plans available. Almost every new premium smartphone in India comes with an attractive EMI (Easy Monthly Installment), buy-back or trade-in offers, to lure new buyers. This works in a price-conscious market like India, especially for students, where someone else in the family decides the purchase.

The top three premium brands – Samsung, OnePlus and Apple – accounted for 90% of the premium segment shipments in Q1 2019 as compared to 95% in Q1 2018. Other brands like Huawei share the remaining 10% of the segment volumes. Huawei’s Mate and P series entered the market in India recently have been getting good traction from consumers. Apple is still struggling to arrest its decline because of its excessive pricing. It is likely to start mass production of iPhones in India, which will eventually help it to save 20% import duty on its devices. If this saving is passed on to the buyers, Apple is likely to get a bump up in terms of volumes as it remains the most aspirational brand in India.

With an upcoming mid-tier variant of the Pixel, Google has a chance to start things from scratch in some of emerging markets like India where the premium segment is small but growing fast. This can help Google to lock in some first-time users looking for premium features at an affordable price.

We estimate that India’s premium segment will grow by 30% in 2019 due to rising incomes, increasing competition, and high spending power of the consumers.

Karn is a Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, based in Gurgaon. He currently handles Global Devices and Ecosystems, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality research. Karn has over 8 years of experience in the mobile device ecosystem space. He has a degree in Electronics and Communication.

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