Of Premium Smartphone Rankings....

After rapidly losing ground to Xiaomi in the overall smartphone rankings, market leader Samsung has lost not just its top spot in the premium segment to Apple in the July-September period, but has been relegated -for the first time ever -to No. 3, behind OnePlus in a segment that is seeing competition like never before. The South Korean phone maker, however, disputed the findings of Counterpoint Research and said it continued to lead the segment by end-sales.

The fight for the top spot in the high-end segment -Rs.30,000 and above -is set to heat up further in November with players like Google, Xiaomi and Nokia in the fray, making life for Apple and Samsung -who have historically dominated this segment -far tougher. Sector watchers expect these brands to offer discounts or bundled offers in this segment to get buyers amid the heightened competition. Apple, for example, is believed to be tying up with Airtel to sell its super premium product on the telco's recently launched online store.

“Samsung's share dropped to 31% from 55% in the previous quarter as premium segment (above Rs.30,000) was driven more by Rs.30,000-40,000 band due to OnePlus and older iPhone models, due to which majority of the volume of the segment was skewed towards Rs.30,000-40,000 sub-segment where Samsung is not that strong,“ said Tarun Pathak, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Apple led with 35% share in July-September, on the back of iPhone 8 launch, and price cuts on earlier models right after GST. OnePlus followed Apple with 32% backed by sales of OnePlus 5, as per data from the Hong-Kong based firm.

Some analysts said Samsung may cut prices or bring out some offers on the Note 8 to claw back share. Samsung disputed the agency data while saying the share of phones sold in the market was highest amongst competition. The company's market share by volume was 65.2% and 65.4% by value, in the above Rs.30,000 segment, Samsung India senior vice-president for mobile business Asim Warsi said, citing data from German research firm GfK, which tracks sales to end consumers.

Analysts added that volume of shipments in the premium segment is expected to be higher than usual for the current October-December quarter, while competition will be higher than ever before.

Retail sales of Apple's highest priced iPhone X -from Rs.89,000 to Rs.1lakh -begins on November 3, while Google's Pixel 2 series, priced between Rs.61,000 and Rs.82,000, begins selling from November 15.

The entry of Xiaomi, which sold over 4 million phones in a month, into the premium segment with Mi Mix 2 priced around Rs.36,000 and growing popularity of Nokia 8 launched in September at around Rs.37,000 will also add to the mix of options that consumers will have besides Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 and OnePlus that has OnePlus 5 priced around Rs.33,000, in the market since June.

Analysts add that while Xiaomi and Google can make a dent in the segment, as both have devices priced at lower than competition, Apple will want to keep its lead in the present quarter with the iPhone X, which has seen strong demand. Apple though is facing huge supply issues for the super-premium device.

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