Samsung’s low-budget phones gain popularity

Putting aside the recognition for its high-end smartphones, Samsung Electronics is successfully taking advantage of “frugal innovation” in India and other emerging markets.

Frugal innovation means removing nonessential features from a durable product such as a car or a phone in order to sell it in developing countries at lower prices.

The strategy to harness the production process is paying off as the Korean tech giant has been sitting atop the leaderboard of the market share in India on strong demand for the mid-range Galaxy J phones. The South Asian country is highly anticipated to soon surpass the United States as the second-largest smartphone market next to China.

According to Counterpoint Research, Samsung was the top smartphone vendor there in the first quarter of the year with a 26 percent market share, defying intensifying challenges from Chinese player. Another research firm Canalys said Samsung’s smartphone share remained unchanged at 22 percent during the cited period.

“Unlike Apple, Samsung offers smartphones in all segments to suit every consumer — from the top-end Galaxy S series to the mid-range and low-end A and J series,” a Samsung official said.

“There are many mid-tier and low-end smartphone markets in Southeast and Southwest Asia. Targeting them, we are coming up with low-cost phones with optimal functionalities.”

Earlier this month, Samsung launched two new smartphones, the Galaxy J7 Max and the Galaxy J7 Pro, in India in a bid to maintain its lead there. The J series has demonstrated Samsung’s commitment to Indian consumers.

“The Samsung J series holds the top position in the mass mid-segment smartphone market and continues to witness healthy demand from Indian customers. At Samsung, we listen to our consumers and bring out meaningful innovations that help enhance people’s lives,” Sumit Walia, Samsung India’s mobile business director, said at the launching ceremony in New Delhi on June 14.

The Galaxy J7 Max will be offered to consumers at $277 (315,000 won) and the Galaxy J7 Pro for $324.

The Samsung official said the J7 came to town through Samsung’s “frugal innovation” but added the phones also evolve. They are equipped with some features available only in Samsung’s flagship phones such as a camera and a mobile payment system as well as a premium design.

“Like the flagship Galaxy S8 handsets, both smartphones are powered by non-removable batteries and crafted with a metal unibody that make them very stylish,” the Samsung official said.

“They feature a 13-megapixel camera, with lenses enabling users to take low-light photos and bright selfies.”

And the headline feature of the smartphones was to support Samsung Pay — the first time for any mid-tier Samsung phone to feature the payment system, released in India in March.

According to the company, Samsung Pay will be available on the J7 Pro, while the J7 Max comes with Samsung Pay Mini that provides a comprehensive platform for UPI and mobile wallets but does not support offline payments.

“Samsung is trying to offer smartphones loaded with premium features at low prices in India and other emerging countries,” the official said.

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