| New Delhi |
Published: March 23, 2020 1:44:19 pm
These are unprecedented times. Most of India, in fact, most of the world, is in a lockdown. Essential services are the only ones allowed, and suddenly everyone you know is working from home. So it does seem like an odd time for smartphones to launch, but then as they say the show must go on, even if it is taking place online.
For Xiaomi it will be a big one, the Mi 10, its first flagship phone in India since the Mi MIX 2 launched back in 2017. And it comes at a very turbulent time. For one, Xiaomi has already given plenty of indication that the Mi 10 is a premium device with a higher price, likely higher than the China variants, which are starting at Yuan 3999 or roughly Rs 40,000.
The messaging has been clear: This is not an affordable flagship and Xiaomi India head Manu Kumar Jain has laid out the exact reasons for this as well. One is the increased GST from 12 per cent to 18 per cent, two being that this is a direct import, meaning unlike other Redmi phones, this is not made in India. Third, is a depreciating rupee, which is bound to make everything worse. This could very well explain Jain’s tweet today about the rupee at 76.06 followed by the teary-eye emoji.
Add to that the impact that the coronavirus lockdown will continue to have on the Indian economy and global economy as a whole, means the Mi 10 is unlikely to have an auspicious launch. And it won’t be the only phone that faces this.
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Xiaomi will be hoping that things play out very differently, but there’s no doubt that even without the existing crisis, breaking into the premium segment has been a challenge for them. I can’t help but think of previous premium flagships from the company and how they fared in India.
The Mi 5 when it launched in 2016 was a reasonably priced flagship at Rs 24,999 and was competing with phones like the OnePlus, given the specifications it offered. But it failed to set the market on fire, unlike the affordable Redmi phones. The Mi MIX 2 in 2017 failed to do any better for the company, despite being a unique and innovative phone with a full-screen display and that too priced under Rs 40,000.
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After that, it seemed Xiaomi had given up on launching its Mi branded flagships in India. But in 2020, the Mi 10 is supposed to change all of that. On paper, the Mi 10 with its 5G capabilities sounds like an excellent flagship. It has the high-end Snapdragon 865 processor, a 108MP camera, which so far only Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra is offering, 50W fast-charging, and a premium design. But numbers show that breaking into the premium segment is more than just a specifications game in India.
In the ultra-premium, Apple still dominates, and hence the year-old iPhone XR continued to be a best-seller in India in 2019. Then there’s Samsung and OnePlus, which have segmented their brand positions in this segment of the market. For the Mi 10, the challenge won’t lie in the device’s performance or specifications. But rather, in convincing users that this is the premium phone to consider, over say the next OnePlus or the existing Samsung flagships, or even the iPhone 11, which is retailing at discounts.
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