How things went for smartphone market in 2014

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The year 2014 has been quite eventful for the smartphone market, both in domestic and international market. Some new players joined the game, the old leaders ran at a risk of their spot, new technologies made it to our devices and the number game became even fierce. While the performance of smartphones seems to be already at the pinnacle and there isn’t much to see, manufacturers are trying hard to add as much as they can so that these devices don’t end up being boring. The focus also shifted a bit from smartphones to fitness trackers and smart watches.

What was new in 2014?

As I said already, this year has been tough for many manufacturers. These manufacturers weren’t able to grow in terms of volumes or market share and the list includes some big names. Apple however was unaffected with all these things happening in the mobile market. They finally decided to let the iPhone grow and this time the iPhones moved up to android sizes. With this change, social media was flooded with jokes on Apple as they called Samsung stupid for making large devices. Brands like Samsung and Sony made sure they mock Apple while they can. While many weren’t happy with this change, the manufacturer is posting impressive numbers with the new iPhones, good enough to make Samsung worry.

Samsung hasn’t lost its spot but the year hasn’t been very good for the Korean giant. The Galaxy S4 was a huge success for the manufacturer but this year they weren’t able to replicate the success with Galaxy S5. No doubt the S5 is an impressive device and it managed to outsell the rivals but still it is an unimpressive number for Samsung. They tried to put some metal on a phone with the Galaxy Alpha but it wasn’t any good.

HTC came up with the One M8 which is a really impressive device. Not in terms of features but the way it looks and feels. They were having a hard time surviving in the market. Many important employees left the companies and their suppliers were bailing out but they managed to swim through with the HTC One M8 doing decent numbers. LG managed to achieve success with the G3 which was the first device from a mainstream manufacturer to come with a QHD display. It managed to bring the company back in light and the device turned out to be LG’s bestseller. Things have been a little slow in the market because the devices in 2014 didn’t really offer much over the devices in 2013. There wasn’t something very exciting that would bring buyers running to stores.

What about the budget segment?

Things weren’t very good in the budget segment if were looking for one made by a mainstream manufacturer. I have stopped keeping track of Samsung devices that are priced below 30K. Not because I don’t need a new device or I want a high end device but because they are lost in that segment. There is no way you can find a half decent device for around 15-20K made by Samsung. It will lack features and will still proudly carry a price tag that can’t be justified. HTC was no good either. It is not that they didn’t try. In fact they came up with lot of devices like Desire 310, Desire 610 and others. But like with most HTC devices, they were overpriced, or devices like Moto G and Asus Zenfone made them look overpriced.

This reminds me that LG hasn’t produced any decent budget device either. We appreciate the LG G3 but just the top end won’t do the job for them. There were some mini versions but they didn’t offer the value. The most disappointing manufacturer this year for me was Sony. They made sure that they come up with a new flagship device every six months and carry the price tag towards north but there were many issues they haven’t addressed. Do you know the display of a mid-range device like Nexus 4 introduced in 2012 has got a better contrast ratio than the one on Xperia Z3? Would they go against the LG G3 or iPhone 6 with this? While it offers excellent camera and waterproof capabilities, things are really bad once you move down the chain. The mid-range and low end Sony devices have got pathetic cameras and displays. So now you can’t even have faith in a big brand.

Well thankfully you don’t need to because manufacturers like Xiaomi came in with impressive devices at very impressive prices. So if you can trust a relatively new brand, they have got a lot to offer. In fact this year they grew to take the third spot in smartphone market in terms of volumes. If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, let me remind you that they haven’t made their entry in the west yet. The recently resurrected manufacturer Motorola launched the updated version of Moto G and Moto X, both of them being pretty good devices. Asus got serious about the smartphone segment and launched the Zenfone series. While I didn’t like the Zenfone 6, the Zenfone 4 and 5 are really good for their price.

What to expect in 2015?

There is no way that things will become stagnant in the smartphone market even in 2015. Now we will see a wave of 64 bit chipsets in the android market. We have already seen some 64 bit chipsets on android devices and with the Android Lollipop coming in, they will go mainstream. This isn’t true just for high end devices but also mid-range devices as we have seen already with the Snapdragon 410 chipset. With 64 bit chipsets coming in, we will also see devices have more RAM making the Note 3’s hardware look pretty ordinary.

While even full HD is pointless on a mobile phone as we can hardly notice the difference beyond 300 ppi, we saw LG come up with QHD display on the G3. Samsung followed with the Note 4. This year we will see more devices rushing towards QHD displays. So we will see more of the development that we can’t notice. Android wear started catching up in 2014. We will see more devices running on android wear in the year 2015.

We saw Samsung come up with something fresh in form of Galaxy Note Edge. We earlier saw both Samsung and LG show off the flexible displays in form of Galaxy Round and G Flex respectively but the devices were pretty much pointless. This time however Samsung has managed to take a step in the right direction. The strip on side of the display functions separate from the main display and offers extra controls. While it isn’t a very big deal, it is an indication that things will get better in future if not just in 2015. There is a long list of things I want to see on flagship smartphones of 2015 like better batteries, tougher built, better biometrics and smart software but I guess all that is going to take longer than a year.

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Akshay Sharma

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