India’s smartphone OS war to escalate

The smartphone operating system (OS) war in India will intensify in the next coming months as the market continues to grow fast

The smartphone operating system (OS) war in India will intensify in the coming months, as the country’s smartphone market continues to race away.

According to CMR’s India Monthly Mobile Handsets Market Review, 14.5 million out of a total of 58.9 million mobile handsets shipped in India in the first quarter of 2014 were smartphones. That represents over 219.4% year-on-year growth and 1.9% quarter-on-quarter growth.

“The India smartphone market is growing at a significant pace and consumer buying patterns and preferences are continuously evolving,” said Tarun Pathak, device analyst at CMR’s telecoms practice.

Samsung currently leads the smartphone market, with local handset players Micromax and Karbonn in second and third place respectively. Just over 68% of the smartphones shipped were 3G-enabled. 

OS vendors are now coming up with different approaches to gain market share.

“The next wave of demand will come from consumers who are data-hungry and want to use their device for a wide range of activities. In such a scenario those vendors will be successful who focus on providing a great device experience to users, rather than simply marketing their offerings on the basis of a certain set of specifications,” added Pathak.

To do just that, Microsoft has recently announced its Windows OS free to makers of smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 9in. Pathak said this would help bring more Windows Phone 8.1 devices into the market from OEMs using Windows Mobile as the underlying OS. “It will be interesting to watch how consumers in India react to the Windows Mobile offerings from different vendors.”

Google also launched an OEM programme at its I/O 2014 event. Android One, as it is known, aims to help OEMs bring more affordable smartphones to developing markets like India, which could help increase Android’s market share even further. Micromax and Karbonn have already tied up with both Microsoft and Google to bring affordable Windows Phones and Android-based smartphones to the Indian market soon.

With bring your own device (BYOD) schemes common in India, businesses in the country don’t seem to have any OS preference. “Historically, Blackberry enjoys some loyalty among enterprises who really look for a business-oriented OS, but this has changed and is changing further rapidly,” said Faisal Kawoosa, lead analyst at CMR.

On the other hand, Apple is offering buy-back and EMI (easy monthly instalment) schemes to sell more iOS devices in India. Blackberry is also launching affordable entry and mid-range smartphones with its latest BB 10 OS. And Samsung has bet on the open source Tizen OS for its upcoming smart devices instead of Android. All this might ignite even more competition among various OS vendors, with multiple handset players trying to gain market share.

Although Windows Phone has expanded its user base considerably with the Nokia Lumia range, Android remains the leader in the smartphone category with a 34.77% share as of January 2014, according to Statista.

“Right now Android leads the game and is likely to continue to,” said Kawoosa. “The main reason is too many OEMs/ODMs pushing the OS with so many brands and models available.”

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