Deciding on your smartphone purchase is anything but a straightforward process these days. We are spoilt for choice. And the problem transcends across price segments. This, despite the fact that smartphones look and feel the same. It isn’t surprising then that companies lately have been more focused on marketable innovations. All in the hope of making their products stand out. This is where one comes across a surprising trend.
The recent trendsetters
For a long time, the likes of Apple and Samsung have been largely associated with being market leaders and innovators in the smartphone space. You would think other companies just follow their lead. But that is no longer the case. In fact, when we think about smartphone companies that made us go wow recently, very few come to mind. And none of them are the biggies like Apple, Samsung, or LG. Instead, it is the Chinese players that are coming up with smartphones with innovative features, which until a couple of years back seemed like a dream.
If you consider smartphone features, then full-screen displays, fingerprint sensors hidden below the screen, more than two cameras on board or featuring colors that change based on how you look at it – all come from Chinese companies. The list goes on.
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“We believe that overall design of smartphone has hit its peak already as devices have started to look more or less similar. OEMs in such a scenario are going deeper within generic specs to differentiate their products,” Tarun Pathak, Associate Director with Counterpoint Technology Market Research says. Illustrating with an example he adds, “Shift in positioning of selfie centered phones to wide angle, wide aperture, slow-motion, Bokeh and all. In short differentiation based on innovations within the components has started.”
The OnePlus 6 boasts top-of-the-line specifications and features, and yet is priced less than what you would pay for a Samsung or Apple. The best camera you would find on a smartphone today comes from Huawei, and its P20 Pro actually comes with three cameras. Another interesting design aspect is the device’s changing colors, which comes as a breath of fresh air among the crowd of black, white, and gold devices.
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The bezel-less trend was started by Xiaomi back in 2016, when it launched the Mi MIX. Many companies have since followed suit, including Apple with its iPhone X. Vivo recently launched the NEX, which is as bezel-less as a smartphone can get now. In fact, there is so less space around the screen that the company had to build a pop-up mechanism for the selfie camera. Incidentally, Vivo is also the first company in the world to launch a smartphone with the fingerprint sensor embedded below the display.
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Another Chinese company, Oppo, is also gearing up to launch its flagship smartphone Find X on June 19. If recent leaks and teasers are anything to go by, the upcoming smartphone is going to be truly bezel-less, and is also likely to boast a camera capable of 5x lossless zoom. This one’s worth looking out for.
The changing trends
I admit, some of these innovative features may not be as refined as the features usually found on a Samsung or Apple product. But that’s not stopping the Chinese companies from trying, and bringing such features to the market. For a long time most Chinese companies have been accused of offering unreliable products, and mostly copying from the big companies. It then comes as no surprise that such companies have had to push themselves to stand out. Such innovations are also helping companies such as Huawei and Xiaomi climb the ranks, and really take the competition to the likes of Samsung and Apple.
So should the traditional big companies be worried about their rivals from China? “We believe that Samsung and Apple should not be worried as they are R&D driven companies but acceleration of such innovations driven by Chinese brands means that consumer is likely to keep the devices for a longer period of time increasing the upgrade time which indirectly will impact smartphone OEMs,” Pathak says.
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