BRICS: A Smart Future Built on Affordable Devices

Oct 20, 2017
By: Marissa Camilli

While the $999 iPhone X (or $1,149 if you want the 256GB model) has made headlines around the world, mainly due to its cost and a high profile failure at its launch event, the future of mobile devices in the global marketplace almost certainly belongs to more affordable devices.

Global Markets Need Cheaper Options

While companies like Apple and Samsung lead smartphone innovation in more mature markets (and who wouldn’t want the latest Apple or Samsung device?), manufacturers such as the Indian-based Micromax and Chinese-owned companies including Huawei, Oppo and Vivo are putting smartphones in the hands of millions of users in a number of emerging economies often referred to as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Note: As app developers and marketers we love cutting edge technologies but for organizations targeting International audiences, it’s vital we understand the scope of the technological, cultural and economic opportunities available to us. There are so many things to weigh up when entering a new and emerging market. It’s also important to remember, while certain areas relating to development might be restricted (such as processing power, available memory or limited access to free data) the scale of the opportunity (in terms of potential users) could be fantastic. Successful app development in emerging economies (and at home) is about putting the right app in the hands of the right people and this takes local knowledge and the right connections if you are going to get it right.

400 Million Potential Smartphone Users in India

Micromax’s Bharat 2 smartphone (which retails for 3,499 Indian rupees – approximately $54), sold more than 500,000 units within 50 days of its launch in April 2017. The 4G device has since gone on to sell more than 2 million units.

Speaking to journalists, Micromax Informatics’ co-founder Rahul Sharma said: “There are more than 400 million feature phone users who are waiting to move to smartphones that give the experience without straining their budgets. The exception acceptance of Bharat-2 is a testimony of our vision and also goes to prove that there is a huge appetite for budget VoLTE smartphones amongst the Indian telecom subscriber. Hence, we are further working towards fulfilling the need gap for our consumers and with the expansion of Bharat -series we believe that we will truly drive the next phase of smartphone adoption in the country.”

While the Bharat 2’s technical spec (the phone boasts a 4-inch touch screen display with a 480X800 pixels of resolution and just 4GB of internal storage) is a long way off the latest Samsung Note 8 (6.3 inches at 1440 x 2960 pixels and 64GB) the fact Micromax’s device is 20 times cheaper than the Samsung phone will make a huge difference in a country where the average income is less than $2,000 per year.

Home Grown Technology – Made in China

China is another emerging economy where sales of home grown technology from the likes of Huawei, Oppo and Vivo currently outpacing their international rivals.

While many Apple and Samsung devices are manufactured in China, few end up in the hands of Chinese consumers. Apple currently ranks as the fourth biggest smartphone seller in China while Samsung sits in eighth position.

With China’s burgeoning economy, rapidly growing middle-class and huge population, the sales figures reported by smartphone manufacturers are simply staggering. Huawei’s focus on mid-range smartphones helped them ship more than 23 million units in the second quarter of 2017.

And when you have a population of more than one billion people to target – there is still a huge opportunity for growth. Xiaomi, a popular choice amongst price conscious consumers and China’s fifth largest smartphone manufacturer has plans to sell more than 100 million units in 2018.

Note: To put the size of the opportunity in China into perspective, in 2016 there were 208 million smartphone users in the United States. The size of the market has been estimated to grow to approximately 270 million users by 2022 – a growth rate of 30 percent. Although China is predicting a similar growth rate at 32 percent – the number of users is set to increase by 190 million to 816 million users from the 2016 figure of 626 million.

The Internet is Mobile in South Africa

The importance of web-enabled, smart devices is perhaps best highlighted in countries like South Africa where the majority of the online population access Internet services via their smartphones.

However, the harsh economic realities of life in many emerging economies like South Africa can also be revealed by smartphone usage statistics. Despite there being around 29-million smartphones in use in South Africa, there are only approximately 21-million internet users, suggesting that a quarter of smartphone users either cannot afford or have no access to data.

Currently, only 40 percent of South Africans access online services, compared with 87 percent in a mature market like the United States. The cheapest and most convenient way of increasing Internet usage and granting access to online business and recreational opportunities is almost certainly through greater access to affordable smartphone technology.

Samsung appear to have cornered the South African market, with a 40 percent market share, while Apple and Huawei slugging it out with ten and nine percent of the market respectively.

While economic and logistic factors are certainly a big concern in the South African market, there is also a significant opportunity for growth and to make a real difference to millions of South Africans currently on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Samsung – Big in Brazil

With a population of more than 207 million, Brazil is perhaps the most important market in Latin-America where affordable devices like the Samsung Galaxy J3 help the Korean company top the lists of popular devices.

With affordable phones running on the Android operating system making up more than 75 percent of the Brazilian smartphone market, Apple has been pushed down to fourth place on the list of best-selling devices in Brazil by Motorola (with 16 percent market share) and LG (with 13 percent).

Interestingly, despite finding much success with their low-cost models in the Brazilian market and continued economic uncertainty, Samsung recently announced that the company was changing its focus in the territory and would now concentrate its efforts on marketing its premium products.

The Russian Bear

While many would still consider Russia as an emerging economy, it represents the largest market for smartphone manufacturers in Europe. In 2016, more than 30.66 million smartphones were sold across Russia – more than any other European country.

While premium brands including Apple and Samsung do very well in Russia (Samsung is the market leader with 21 percent of sales), newer and second tier devices from Chinese and Indian manufactures are making their mark in the territory.

The aforementioned Indian-firm, Micromax, is currently enjoying a market share in Russia of nearly five percent.

According to Natalia Vinogradova, senior analyst for mobile phone research at IDC Russia: “Though the top end of the market remains strong, nearly half of the smartphone market now consists of devices with a sales price of less than $100 without VAT.”

Local Knowledge is Power

As app developers seek to exploit new markets, a little local knowledge goes a long way. And it’s not just about understanding which devices and operating systems are popular in particular markets. It’s about having the relationships with the (numerous) service providers and OEMs and developing a deep knowledge of local markets which can help you localize and position your app to achieve optimum impact within your target market.

As a truly global company, Digital Turbine has partnered with more than 30 mobile service providers and OEMs, helping your reach the right people at the right time with the right product in your home market and overseas.

To learn how Digital Turbine can help reach new audiences contact our specialist app marketing team here.

Marissa Camilli
By Marissa Camilli
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