Smartphones Running on Windows Set to Enjoy a Bumper Year in India

At the recently concluded Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014, Microsoft Corp announced nine new Windows Phone partners, including Karbonn Mobile India Pvt Ltd and LAVA International Ltd from India. One month on from MWC 2014, these manufacturers have finally announced their plans for smartphones running on the Windows Phone operating system (OS) to be sold in India.

Feature Phones Rule in India

With only 3% of the 951 million mobile phone subscriptions offering internet capability in 2013, feature phones continue to be the category’s dominant volume driver in the country. India also has one of the lowest annual gross incomes and hence take-up of smartphones.

Annual Gross Income 2013

Source: Euromonitor International
Note: US$ fixed 2013 rate

While the prices of smartphones have fallen dramatically, the humble feature phone continues to be considerably cheaper. Touch screens, larger screen sizes, an internal memory, licensing costs for 3G capabilities and internet capability all contribute to higher smartphone prices.

Catering for the Masses

Karbonn’s Windows Phone devices will be priced at between Rs6,000-12,000 (US$102-204) and will be available by the end of May. LAVA International’s entry models will be priced similar to those of Karbonn but have a later launch date, as reported by The Times of India. Both manufacturers are banking on a larger portfolio of smartphones running on Windows OS to complement their large stable of Android smartphones to capture a greater market share.

Strategically, Microsoft is helping these manufacturers to launch their smartphones running on its Windows OS. Microsoft removed its previous requirement for a physical camera key and now allows touch keys to help reduce the bill of materials (BoM). Essentially, Microsoft is aligning its requirements with Android and making it easier for the manufacturers to use the same hardware for both Android and Windows Phone devices. The Redmond giant is also offering tools and content to help these manufacturers market the smartphones and is also working with Qualcomm to offer reference design to reduce the time-to-market of Windows devices.

Windows Catching Up

Nokia, having gained an esteemed status in India due to being one of the earliest technology companies to invest in the country and customising its products for the Indian market, continues to enjoy a strong following among Indian consumers. Nokia Life Tools, an initiative launched by Nokia in 2008, provides up-to-date information such as prices of agricultural crops to rural communities without internet access via text messages. Nokia is seen as a company that understands the plights of local consumers and is willing to invest in and help local communities rather than being just a profit-driven corporation.

CE2014-india-nokia.jpg

Source: Image from innovation-village.com 

With Microsoft relaxing its hardware requirements and Karbonn and Lava joining Nokia in driving Windows Phone sales in India in 2014, Euromonitor International expects smartphones running on Windows to gain a 16% market share, with Android still holding on to its sizeable lead of 70%.