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Tech giants pull out all the stops to boost smartphone sales

Tech giants pull out all the stops to pack in more features in their flagship models to woo more users

Published on May 9, 2014 6:00 AM
 
People standing in line outside a store during the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy S5 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, last month. Analysts expect Samsung to ship about 10 million units of the smartphone in the first month of launch and 40 to 50 million this year. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

With almost every smartphone packing a camera loaded with megapixels, a super-fast processor, a large screen and a super-sharp display, handset makers are now looking to other features to woo consumers to buy new hardware.

HTC's latest flagship, the One (M8), has a camera with two lenses to snap images with greater depth of field. The secondary 2MP lens is dedicated for this purpose and differs from the software application deployed by HTC's competitors.

LG's G Pro 2 uses gesture controls, such as tapping a finger on the screen to unlock the device or to wake it from sleep mode.

Not content with offering a 20.7MP camera with its Xperia Z2, Sony has added 4K resolution video recording to its latest phone.

For Samsung, aside from improving the photo-taking features on the Galaxy S5, the tech giant has also added a biometric sensor and heart-rate monitor.

Their goal is not just to win over customers but to also challenge the new wave of cheaper smartphones from Taiwan and China.

Price challenge

In February, China handset maker Xiaomi launched its quad-core Redmi handset here.

Its main draw? The $169 price tag. Compare that with $800 to $1,000 price tags on flagship devices of other handset makers.

The first two batches sold out and Xiaomi said it sold another 5,000 units here within 8min 4sec in March.

Then, in an apparent dare to HTC, Samsung and Sony, Xiaomi took $80 off the price of its pricier Mi 3 Android smartphone in the same month that the big boys launched their top-end handsets here.

That took the price of the 5-inch Mi 3 to just $339. And this is for a 2.3GHz quad-core phone.

Even Asus has crashed the party, by launching the Zenfone 5 on pre-order here last month for just $199.

The good news is that the entry of cheaper alternatives does not seem to have dented demand for high-end smartphones.

Expect more variants

The three telcos would not reveal sales figures, but demand for the four new flagships - three launched last month, and the LG G Pro 2 in March - seems to have survived the launch of so many new devices at around the same time.

Explained Mr Johan Buse, vice-president of Consumer Marketing, SingTel: "Singaporeans have an ongoing love affair with new technology and it is common for mobile users to upgrade their handsets to the latest flagship models as soon as they become available."

Said StarHub assistant vice-president Cindy Hung, who is in charge of consumer premises equipment: "What we can share is that we have different projections for these four popular Android smartphones. Their combined sales performance has tracked well within our expectations."

The four handset makers have kept mum about sales figures, but signs are pointing to healthy numbers.

LG's G Pro 2 was launched in only a limited number of countries, including Singapore, in March - way ahead of the United States and Europe.

Sony will start selling the Xperia Z2 in the US only later in the summer.

Analysts expect Samsung to ship about 10 million units of the Galaxy S5 in the first month of launch and 40 to 50 million this year.

Between three and five million units of the HTC One (M8) are expected to ship in the second quarter of this year.

And you better decide soon, because as trends go, smartphone makers are also notorious for coming up with variants for their flagship devices, to give customers more options to choose from.

sherwinl@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on May 7, 2014.

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