The world’s largest smartphone maker’s unusual strategy has given birth to some truly outstanding smartphone brands. Something peculiar is happening in the Indian smartphone market right now, especially when it comes to mid-range smartphones. To the casual observer, it might not seem like much — Samsung and OnePlus have a slew of phones in the […]
The world’s largest smartphone maker’s unusual strategy has given birth to some truly outstanding smartphone brands.
Something peculiar is happening in the Indian smartphone market right now, especially when it comes to mid-range smartphones. To the casual observer, it might not seem like much — Samsung and OnePlus have a slew of phones in the space, and they are being challenged by several promising offerings from a few up-and-coming brands. But look a little closer, and you’d see something fascinating. Sure, OnePlus is still producing highly compelling smartphones at very tempting price points. But there has been a clear shift in the way it is going about doing this. As the brand’s top-tier phones moved away from being called ‘flagship killers’ to being bonafide flagships, the affordable, mid-range space that it once dominated was left wide open for other manufacturers to target. And Samsung did exactly that with a slew of mid-range offerings with great screens and good battery life.
Oppo and Vivo were already focused on the space, while Realme was offering affordable performance, much like OnePlus, albeit at a lower price point. An exciting recent entrant is iQOO, which, from the looks of it, is another performance-focused brand. However, there is something rather different when it comes to the positioning of their products. The two-year-old brand only has a handful of products in India, but they are direct competitors of OnePlus smartphones.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, Realme, and iQOO are owned by the same parent company — the Chinese multinational BBK Electronics. Yes, some of the world’s most popular smartphone brands are owned by the same entity. BBK Electronics and all its brands have gone to great lengths to keep this fact in relative obscurity. In fact, as BBK Electronics is a privately held company, we still don’t know the exact ownership structure of these brands.
And understandably so, the brands’ commitment to keeping their lineage under wraps has ensured that they all have distinct public perceptions created in part by innovative marketing and sales strategies — take, for instance, how the OnePlus One’s ‘Flagship Killer’ moniker and the phones’ hard-to-acquire nature (you could only get one initially through oversubscribed flash sales that saw the phones sold out in moments). Such is the differentiation when it comes to branding, product positioning, and even design, that it is hard to imagine these brands as being owned by the same parent company.
You’d still ask, though, why do companies under the same umbrella have products squarely taking on other products from their sister concerns? A probable answer neatly ties together all the recent developments at OnePlus and Oppo as well. As all brands under the BBK Electronics umbrella have grown, especially OnePlus, they have achieved the sort of volumes that have made certain sub-segments almost saturated — there is a certain hesitancy involved in buying a new phone when everyone you know has the same phone, at least when it comes to mid-range smartphones. But, for brands, it has become a little difficult to differentiate similarly priced phones in their portfolios, not least because of how smartphones these days are almost becoming templatised — an Android smartphone at a particular price point will, almost certainly, have a particular processor, a given amount of RAM, a display with a certain resolution plus refresh rate, and so on and so forth.
The differentiation that mostly exists now in similarly priced smartphones is in terms of the software experience (OnePlus’ OxygenOS stands heads and shoulders above the competition; only challenged by stock Android), the design, and, increasingly, the branding/marketing. With OnePlus becoming a dominant player in the smartphone world, it is now in a position where it can, arguably, no longer take the risks that it took a few years ago. With two smartphone lineups in the flagship 9 Series and the Nord Series along with wearables and even TVs, OnePlus, by all accounts, will play it safe. Yes, the original, loyal fanbase of enthusiasts that OnePlus strived hard to cultivate is, and will continue to be disappointed, but OnePlus is no longer an enthusiast-focused brand. It is now a mass-market one. With this push towards becoming a mainstream volume player, OnePlus is now integrating its research and development, along with its tech stack, with Oppo, to maximise efficiency and reduce costs. In fact, much to the chagrin of its fanbase, OxygenOS and Color OS will share the same codebase as well.
Of course, BBK Electronics has been very successful in employing this strategy through its various consumer-facing brands. It is now the world’s largest manufacturer of smartphones. The sheer volume that BBK Electronics now caters to means that it has a competitive advantage that smaller companies just don’t have. This also means that different brands under the BBK umbrella (some of which function fairly independently of the parent company) go in with differing strategies, often targeting different niches of the smartphone world. Realme, for instance, seems like the new recipient of the flagship killer moniker with the Realme GT, while iQOO seems to have its eyes set on conquering the sub-Rs. 20,000 space. All this can only be good news for the consumer. Today, phone buyers are greeted by a wide selection of extremely good smartphones at every price point — something that would not have been possible without BBK Electronics’ path-breaking approach. Here are some of the most exciting new smartphones from the group:
iQOO 7 5G
Featuring a 6.62-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, 20:9 aspect ratio, HDR10+ support, up to 1300 nits brightness, the iQOO 7 has probably one of the best displays in the segment. It is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 — the same processor on phones like the OnePlus 9R that are way more expensive. The attractive Monster Orange colour variant comes with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The phone has some unique, gaming centric features like the presence of a liquid cooling system and 6000mm² graphite board that is said to reduce temperature by up to 11 percent. Rs. 31,990.
OPPO RENO 6
Arguably the best looking Android smartphone to arrive on our shores in the past couple of months, the Oppo Reno 6 is the value buy in the Reno 6 lineup. The curved edges of the Reno 6 Pro are replaced with straight, squared-off edges, and thus has resulted in a smartphone that is a clear standout visually. The 6.42-inch AMOLED display has a full-HD+ resolution, Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 90Hz refresh rate, and peak brightness of 700nits. It is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 900 Soc that is supported by 8 gigs of RAM and 128 gigs of storage. It also gets 65W fast charging. Rs 29,990.
Marketed heavily as the most affordable smartphone with a Snapdragon 888 chipset, the Realme GT is expected to arrive in India soon. It will feature a 6.43-inch full-HD+ AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate. Under the hood, the Snapdragon SoC will be ably supported by up to 12GB RAM and up to 256GB storage. The phone will get a triple rear camera setup with a 64-megapixel Sony IMX682 primary sensor. The 4,500mAh battery will support 65W fast charging (much like in the OnePlus 9 Series). Price: to be announced.
Taking on the very popular Samsung M51 is the Vivo Y53s. Boasting a 64-megapixel primary camera in a triple camera setup, the newest Y Series smartphone from Vivo is pitched as a great camera smartphone for the price. With 33W fast charging, it outdoes the Samsung when it comes to charging speeds. It features a 6.58-inch full-HD+ display with a standard 60Hz refresh rate along with a 20:9 aspect ratio. The Y53s is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio G80 SoC, paired with 8GB of RAM. It gets a 128GB of onboard storage, and 3GB of what Vivo likes to call ‘Extended RAM’ — essentially using the internal storage for multitasking. Rs. 19,490.