Windows Phone: 'the Real Casualty of the Chinese Wave?'

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There's an interesting article today over at TP, based in India, looking at how the budget Windows Phones were squeezed out of the market by the influx of cheap Chinese offerings. It's a similar story in many other markets, too. And hard for anyone to compete, let alone 'Windows Phone', with its lower mindshare.

From the article:

We used to sell several units a day. Before the Chinese phones started coming,” the executive at a Microsoft (formerly Nokia) store in Delhi is pretty clear about what really sent his brand’s fortunes into decline. And he does have a point. For while many might talk of the impact the high-performance-at-low-price phones from (mainly) Chinese brands have had on established Android smartphone giants like Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC, one of the lesser known casualties of the Chinese assault has been Windows Phone.

If that sounds difficult, cast your mind three years back to 2013. Android was getting severely fragmented between the haves and the have nots – on the one hand, you had extremely powerful flagship devices that delivered many a dollop for many a Dollar in performance terms, and on the other you had budget devices that were best for basic browsing a bit of social networking and e-mail. There was a mid-section between the two as well, but even that was a significant step down from the flagships, who occupied a price zone of their own. “You want to play, you got to pay,” was pretty much the market wisdom going around at that time. Yes, there were affordable Android devices but they came with performance and hardware compromises – poor quality displays, mediocre cameras, old versions of Android (with few, if any, update assurances) and designs that often were visual assaults.

And it was at this time that Nokia had seemingly sown the seeds of a Windows Phone revolution with the Lumia 520 in April 2013. Until the release of that device, Windows Phone too had been seen at its best mainly in the upper price echelons – the lower priced devices like the Lumia 510 and 610 came with their own compromises on performance. The Lumia 520, however, was pretty much a bolt from the blue. Running Windows Phone 8, it had a 4.0-inch 800 x 480 display, 8 GB storage (expandable using a memory card, which was not possible in the first generation Windows Phone devices) and a 5.0-megapixel camera with autofocus. No, it did not come with the a front facing camera or NFC but the selfie revolution had not yet caught on, and well NFC was not a rage (it is not even now, but that’s another story). All this at a price of Rs 10,499 (about USD 160) initially but which had beneath the psychological barrier of Rs 10,000 (USD 150) at some places within a few weeks of the device’s launch.


Yes, there were Android devices at that price point too, but – and this is quite a BUT – they came with more significant price compromises than the Lumia 520 did. The Lumia 520 was a far smoother performer (Windows Phone 8 was wonderfully lag-free for most basic tasks even on relatively low specced devices) than any Android phone at its price point and indeed better than some above it. So apparent was the difference in performance that the Lumia 520 sold like hot cakes and rose to become not just the highest selling Windows Phone ever (more than 12 million units) but was also for a while the highest selling smartphone at the sub-Rs 10,000 price point, irrespective of platform. Windows Phone at this stage (in Q2 2013) still had a very small market share (around 3.4 per cent) but it was growing and with the announcements of affordable Windows Phone coming from Indian brands like Micromax and Lava, was being seen as a challenger to Android’s mantle in the years to come.

And then came the Chinese.

You can read the whole piece here, it's worth five minutes of your time.

Nokia and then Microsoft certainly got squeezed by the Chinese invasion, eventually causing the company to retrench around a 'Windows 10 everywhere' ecosystem push, with more of a focus on the high end and the likes of Continuum.

It should be noted that it's not only Microsoft and Windows Phone that has been getting hammered by cheap Chinese Android handsets (hey, I reviewed one only today on The Phones Show), traditional Android brands have been finding things very tough - HTC has been on the verge of losing it for a year or two now. Ditto Sony, though its management does seem happy to keep pumping in investment for now. Summary? Smartphones are a tough market in 2015/2016. Very tough!

Source / Credit: Technology Personalized