05-06-2017 Shelley Vishwajeet
Selfi centric handsets are driving the smartphone market and players are betting big around this feature.
Probably no other single feature in the history of any electronic device has inspired a full length promotional song and video specially centered around it. Selfie feature happens to be the only one! And not for nothing! Selfie centric or phones with front facing 8 MP plus cameras are the new driver for smartphone growth the world over. Gone are the days when unleashing of self portraits in normal or absurd avatars would be considered an exercise in narcissism. Selfie is the new language of self expression – the global phenomena of this decade. Welcome to selfistan where selfie is the unabashed king or is it the queen.
When Gionee had launched Mullen Lintasin created Alia Bhat featuring selfiestan promotional campaign in March this year, it was part of a well thought of strategy to catapult the brand into the top five league. Last year itself, Gionee India’s CEO & MD Arvind Vohra had made it clear during many media interactions that it planned to garner bigger market share despite stiffening competition. Vohra’s stated goal was to reach Rs 10,000 crore milestone by the end of 2017. To achieve this it naturally needed to catch eye balls and stand apart in the packed hall of mobile brands from as many as six countries. Selfiestan promotional was the perfect launch pad to achieve the twin objectives. The gigantic 110 million plus units annually Indian smartphone market is estimated to be worth Rs 1.4 lakh crore with Samsung ruling at the top. But mobile is one segment where competition catches up really fast and it’s a fierce battle out there. Not long back i.e during the 2014 IFA or Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin, which happens to be one of the oldest and most sought after platforms to showcase innovations, the buzz was created by two new smartphones which were sporting 8-megapixel front camera - HTC Desire 820 and Lenovo Vibe Z2. Both also had 13-megapixel rear cameras but of course nobody really cared for that. Today 8MP is just the entry point for any smartphone which desires to be called itself a selfie camera. There is in fact now a race among major players to launch smartphones with 20 MP plus. If Gionee sometime back launched its specialist selfie phone A1 with 16 MP, Vivo launched Vivo V5Plus and Oppo F3 with 20 MPs!
The realization that selfie centric handsets are the future has been a long held belief in the industry. So apart from high visibility campaigns, mobile manufacturers have been pacing ahead with improvised front camera to satisfy the ever growing self expression which has only been fuelled by social media platforms like Instagrams and Facebook.
Smartphone brands may be advertising other strong features of their offerings too but it is being clubbed as the companion of the must have feature – the great front camera. As Shobit Srivastava of Counterpoint Research points out, “Brands are playing on their strong points to market themselves as leader in key categories – such as Gionee with ‘Battery and Selfie’, Oppo with ‘Selfie expert’, Vivo with ‘camera and music’.”
The growth driver: According to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Monitor service, smartphone shipments in India grew a healthy 15% annually in Q1 2017, reaching 29 million units while selfie centric smartphones category i.e smartphones with 8 mega pixels or more front camera grew at phenomenal nine times.
“Integration of high-quality (8 megapixel and above) selfie-focused camera in smartphones is one of the fastest growing trend though merely a supply side push to drive the selfie trend. Sales of devices focus on selfies trend grew annually by a factor of nine in Q1 2017. The segment was mainly driven by Samsung, Oppo, Vivo, Lenovo and Gionee,” says a recent research paper from Counterpoint. No surprise that eight out of ten smartphones shipped supported a 5-inch or bigger display. Users are enjoying content on bigger screens, while cut-throat competition between telecom operators is resulting in low cost 4G tariff plans, enabling consumers to spend more times with their smartphone associated activities – posting selfie of course is among the favourites.
So who started the fire? Pouts, Kim Kardashian, Pope Francis, Prince William, Bradley Cooper, Aki Hoshide or that famous celebes crested macaque or was it our own PM Modi? Well, selfie predates the arrival of smartphones with front facing camera by many decades. Does anyone remember cameras with timers when people will set it up and run in front of the camera to get clicked! Well, some of them were truly mindboggling. It was the nostalgic era of black and white twin lens cameras of Yashicas and Rolleiflex. But arrival of smartphones with front facing cameras coinciding with zooming popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram has changed the dynamics of self expression forever. If mirror was the ultimate item for self expression in the safe cocoon of one’s own privacy, then seflfie has emerged as the ultimate expression of self portrayal for public consumption. The world is going outward. Till the illusive search for another intrinsic feature is discovered and integrated in smartphone which would drive human expression the way selfie has done, selfie centric phones will continue to rule the roost.