The new iPhones are finally here. They bring a lot of cools to the table, but at the same time these upgrades can be largely called incremental. But as always with Apple, it's more about the flagship experience than the flagship specifications … a phone that's more than the sum of its parts. And for the next smartphone season, I see the iPhone 11 as the phone to beat, at least in terms of sales volume.
Because of what these phones offer, they are undoubtedly very desirable. Everyone wants a phone that just works well – no long loading times, reliable cameras that get the image they want on the first try, a battery life that you can trust rather than worry about.
In recent years, however, the definitions and expectations regarding flagships have changed. This does not necessarily mean that a smartphone is expensive, and the focus on using the software to get the most out of the included high-end hardware is increasing. In times like these, affordable flagships are the new fashion.
What is a flagship?
Until a few years ago, the terms "affordable" and "flagships" were not really used together. But then we had OnePlus, Xiaomi and the rest of the Chinese smartphone makers targeting the Indian market and that was the best thing that could happen to us. As you can see, India is one of the largest smartphone markets in the world, but also extremely price sensitive. While everyone would like to own a premium flagship, not everyone could be in a position to get one.
Affordable flagships proved a feat in such a scenario. Not only that, they also put pressure on older smartphone companies like Samsung, LG, HTC and Sony, where consumers began to question the prices associated with their premium flagship merchandise. There is no better example than the Indian smartphone industry for the competition, which is good for the customer. These older companies were forced to rethink their strategies for India or make completely new offers that could compete with the above-mentioned competitors.
Why do companies just not start again to build "lite" flagships?
However, for brands with a certain market perception and personality, it is not easy to suddenly play in a price segment that is lower than what they normally trade. The premium price is a big part of this perception, which makes these phones so desirable. Brands have been faced with the question: how can we make a slightly cheaper phone without compromising on the flagship experience or eliminating the actual flagship lineup?
This question is not easy to answer as one product determines the fate of two or more series. A typical high-risk, high-wage dilemma in which either two winners are identified in two separate segments or very few are sold by each. Even the corners that would need to be cut to allow for a cheaper version of the flagship have to be chosen very carefully. After all, it's still the flagship they market, and a device that's less could be doomed to failure.
It's still a pretty up-and-coming concept and brands are still finding it out. The iPhone XR, for example, was a golden goose for Apple. It brought much of the benefits of the iPhone XS at a much lower price and was in the following months, surprisingly, the best-selling smartphone. Apple enjoys unparalleled technical desirability, and slight price reductions are major sales increases. This is also underlined by simple statistics like the iPhone 6, which is the best-selling iPhone in India, about 3 years after it was originally released.
Who did it right?
Samsung was one of the first major companies to recognize this trend by developing the Galaxy S10e earlier this year. It brought minor downgrades such as a Full HD + display, a smaller camera and a smaller battery with it, but could cost him in India under 60,000 rupees. Whether the downgrades worked well is another discussion for a while, but buying a flagship Samsung S-Series in the 50K segment was a dream for many potential customers.
2019 was also the first time that OnePlus introduced a dual-smartphone strategy. It was already the market leader in the premium segment (phones over 30,000 rupees) and wanted to repeat this success at an even higher price. But for a brand that began its career in the sub-Rs 25K segment, a phone worth nearly double would be a tough sell, especially considering they still had some minor touches to iron.
The cut in the household segment would be unacceptable in the ultra premium area. The answer came in the form of the OnePlus 7 Pro, which brought a completely new design, a display that is still unrivaled and versatile (ultimately) in the camera setting. This also allowed them to lower the regular OnePlus 7 to a lower starting price than its predecessor, which nobody expected. This change worked great for them as there is now a great OnePlus smartphone in all segments ranging from 25,000 rupees to 60,000 rupees.
However, as mentioned earlier, these affordable flagships often fail. Everyone remembers the cataclysm that was the iPhone 5C, and the bad communication around it only aggravated their bad product choices.
More recently, there have been resentments surrounding the smaller Samsung Galaxy Note10. It was a less than commendable effort, with the false downgrades and an overall unappealing Note 10 series. The grade 10 or even the grade 10+ is not a terrible device, but to Samsung's misfortune it came at a time when the competition was better or cheaper in certain aspects. Samsung must make it with the S11 series necessarily, especially after the launch of the iPhone 11.
Good products can be a victim of failed marketing
Regarding failed, affordable flagships, we should talk about Xiaomi's Redmi K20 series. Depending on who you are, you will probably hate it in the core or wholeheartedly recommend it. In India, Xiaomi (or Redmi, to be technically correct) has enjoyed tremendous success in the household segment. After about five years of existence, a high-end flagship should finally be developed, which was to chase the competition over the shoulder of the competition, which were all considerably more expensive.
On paper, the Redmi K20 Pro was the perfect flagship with the latest Snapdragon 855, a large super AMOLED display with no notch, a powerful triple camera on the back, a bold design and a reliable battery. There is very little that they could have added to the mix. What went wrong for them was the long period between the Chinese announcement and official availability in India, which allowed consumers (and probably also the competition) to entertain false expectations of the Redmi K20 Pro, especially with regard to the Price.
It got even worse when it was confirmed that the Redmi K20 (not a pro) started at 29,990 rupees. With the exception of the chipset, it was the K20 Pro that implemented the Snapdragon 730 instead of the 855. The Snapdragon 730 is no child's play and is surpassed only by the flagship Snapdragon 845 and 855 in terms of performance capabilities. For the average consumer, however, this was an expensive device with a Snapdragon 700 Series processor. Yes, the Chinese prices were slightly better, but is not that the case with almost all Chinese products?
This was also a perceptual debacle, as the Indian market could only link Xiaomi to the household segment; One of the reasons why the flagship series Mi never did well in India. Redmi faces the same challenge again by communicating the value proposition to the market and not letting the mood of its flagships become too expensive. A classic case for the struggles of a brand, if it wants to break out of the product and price expectations of its consumers.
#AppleEvent Indian Price (in INR) 7th generation iPad 10.2 ": 29,900Watch Series 5 GPS: 40,990Watch Series 5 GPS + Cellphone: 49,990iPhone 11 (64GB): 64,900iPhone 11 Pro (64GB): 99,900iPhone 11 Pro Max (64 GB)): 1.09,900September 10, 2019
Apple did a great job this time as it developed the narrative that the cheaper iPhone 11 is for the masses, and the iPhone 11 Pro for those who want to get every bit of use out of their phones and are not as price sensitive. This is also reflected in the pricing of the series: The iPhone 11 is quite cheap, without having to do without the essentials and the 11 Pro.
Before the launch of the iPhone 11 series, we speculated that the iPhone 11 would be a very important product for Apple if it wants to survive in India, and with a starting price of 64,900 rupees before rebates it seems like it's delivered.
If the iPhone XR was the best-selling smartphone for the first half of 2019, I have no doubt that the iPhone 11 continues with this legacy. Start your countdown until Apple markets the iPhone 11 aggressively in India.
The price written on this page is true as the time it is written. It may change at any moment.