When the iPhone 4 launched back in 2010, it was a revolutionary device. It introduced a slick new industrial design, a high-resolution “retina” display and all new A4 processor. However, it also introduced one new feature which was somewhat glossed over at the time – a front facing camera. Since then the front-facing camera or “selfie camera” has evolved from being a gimmick to one of the most important features in a smartphone.
Over the period of last seven years, smartphone users and smartphone OEMs have developed a keen interest in mobile camera, and the market is flooded with smartphones that are challenging the professional quality camera images. India is no exception, and all eyes are on the market considering China is a walled garden for many. In the last few years, almost every major smartphone manufacturer has tapped the India smartphone market in a bid to grab a sizable chunk of the pie. The market dynamic, however, have been changing fast due to a cut-throat competition where every smartphone manufacturer is trying to lure Indian smartphone users by offering more powerful chipsets, premium build quality, longer battery life and high-end mobile cameras capable of producing professional quality images.
So, what are the features or factors that make a potential smartphone buyer in India fall for it? And what are the driving factors behind the exploding sales of smartphones in India? Let’s dig deep into it!
What Do Indian Smartphone Users Value Most?
Last year, we have reported that smartphone users in India prefer features and price, over the brand. New findings from Counterpoints Research have recently unveiled some more interesting facts about the Indian smartphone user. The data shows that smartphone upgrade cycles in India are shortening. Users are replacing their smartphone within 20 months now. This is primarily because of exploding 4G adoption, which is largely driven by Reliance Jio. However, a most interesting finding was that nearly 33% of users were prioritising a better selfie camera or fingerprint sensor for their next smartphone purchase.
This is surprising and a departure from the traditional list of most desirable smartphone features such as longer battery life, water resistance, etc. According to Statista, users in the United States valued battery life the most, followed by shatter proof screen, water resistance, camera, hands-free technology. It is evident from these findings that Indian users value different features in their smartphones.
This fact is amply represented in India’s mobile preferences. Apple, Samsung and LG reign supreme in the United States. In contrast, India displays a more diverse preference in terms of manufacturer distribution. Many of the leading smartphone manufacturers in India have centred their marketing around their selfie cameras and its features and reaped the benefits of doing so. This would suggest how much importance the Indian consumer places on this feature.
The craze of the selfie cameras in smartphones mirrors the success of smartphone manufacturers in India. Riding on the back of selfie craze, Oppo, Vivo and Gionee have witnessed unprecedented growth in demand in a record time frame. In Q4 2016, the meteoric rise of Oppo and Vivo in India was a clear indication of users’ preferences and likeness. While all Chinese vendors, including Xiaomi, Lenovo, accounted for 46% of shipment share in CY Q4 2016, it was Oppo and Vivo who stole the show. Both, Oppo and Vivo, recorded 30% and 51% YoY growth in quarter shipment share – the highest as compared to any other smartphone vendors in India.
Driving Factors Behind The Popularity Of The Selfie Camera
- Rise Of Video Calling On Mobile – Video Calling on mobile became a mainstream reality when Apple launched Facetime alongside the iPhone 4. Now people could also see the people they talk to. However, this created a vacuum and gave rise to a new need. A front facing camera was pretty much a necessity for a face-to-face video call. As video calling became more commonplace with an integration of services like Skype in smartphones, front-facing cameras gained more importance.
- Advancements In Smartphone Camera Tech – We expanded previously on how advancements in smartphone camera technology were leading to declining digital camera sales. Over the last few years, manufacturers have been applying similar upgrades to front-facing cameras too. Nowadays in many phones, the front-facing camera is almost as good as the rear camera. In fact, some manufacturers have gone one step further and actually offered a superior front-facing camera than the rear camera.
- Exploding Popularity Of Social Media On Mobile Apps – We reported earlier on the massive growth in popularity of messaging and social media apps on mobile. These platforms are generally a very popular outlet for photo sharing, and selfies are one of the most commonly shared. The integration of these apps with mobile has made the selfie-sharing process easier than ever and has definitely encouraged the new “selfie culture” in India. Another aspect of this has been the rise of the “commutainment” phenomenon. Commutainment is the practice of communication through entertainment activities. Popular social messaging app Snapchat is the embodiment of this phenomenon. Some of the increasing popularity of selfie cameras can definitely be attributed to Snapchat and other similar apps.
- Cultural And Generational Factors – This is the era of the selfie. There are over a million selfies taken every day globally. The younger generation propagates this trend. Framesdirect claim that millennials spend nearly 1 hour per week taking selfies alone. The penchant of the newer generation for selfies is definitely a major driving factor behind growth.
- The Indian smartphone consumer has different priorities compared to users in the US. Manufacturers who cater to these unique requirements are more likely to find success in the Indian market.
- Smartphone manufacturers are increasingly focusing on the front-facing camera than the rear camera as their USP. This reflected the fact that many OEMs are offering better selfie cameras than rear ones.
- As the megapixel wars are dying down, OEMs are looking to enhance the selfie experience with software offerings such as filters, skin smoothing software, etc.
- Social Media on Mobile is one of the biggest benefactors and beneficiaries of the selfie revolution. The ease of use and integration has made commutainment based apps very lucrative.