Idea Cellular launched their latest flagship Android smartphone 2 days back in Hyderabad. Christened as the Ivory, the ICS phone sports a 3.5 inch capacitive multi-touch screen, a 1 Ghz Broadcom processor, dual sim capability, a 1300 mAH battery, a 3.2 MP camera and expandable memory upto 3GB. The phone has been priced at Rs. 7390 which posits it as a strong competitor among other budget Android smartphones which sport ICS. There is an additional advantage for existing as well as new idea customers as the phone comes with a 3G data package which promises to give you Rs. 1200 worth of data for free. The plan is subject to certain terms and conditions which you can check on their website.
Here are some images I clicked of the new phone.
While the phone seems to be handy and light, the display is not very good. The resolution leaves a lot to be desired. The phone is fast in its operation though. It was very responsive to touch and seemed like it could handle multi-tasking well. The design is not very good in terms of aesthetics but it fits nicely in your hand. This one is strictly for Idea consumers who want to get their value’s worth of data usage and are not really bothered about big screens and displays. The phone comes with apps for cloud backup, social networking, Chrome and Idea’s preloaded entertainment apps. These Idea apps are just bookmarks. Clicking on them takes you to the browser, which is where you can access their content. This is not a particularly good thing because native apps hold much more value than web apps masquerading as native apps on your system.
Why is Idea getting into the 3G budget Android phone space?
I have been wondering what’s the real reason for Idea to get into the handset space, especially when players like Micromax, Karbonn and Lava have gotten such great response for users in that price segment. It seems Idea doesn’t really want to grab market share from these other players. Their objective is very simple. They want to raise awareness about 3G smartphones and thus get users all over India to adopt their 3G services. Idea is available in 2800 Indian towns and its rural reach is very good. With these Android handsets, it plans to bring the concept of a smartphone to small town India. This will work for them because people in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns are not really the biggest users of 3G. Idea’s plan is to get these users to give them a package deal – put comparatively new mobile technology into their hands and get them to use 3G. Thus they have special data plans for the device.
Like most Indian network operators, Idea is in the middle of a transition towards being a data services provider. They most definitely want people everywhere to use their data services and according to Shashi Shankar, CMO of Idea Cellular, the budget smartphones are more consumer and technology driven than dongles. Thus they went ahead and figured out a deal to get various budget smartphones to the market. The Ivory is the 5th branded handset and Shankar says that they are doing pretty well. They sell 25,000 handsets per month. When compared to the total handset sales in India which amount to 1.5 million pieces a month, this is a miniscule amount of market-share. But that does not matter for Idea it seems, because they have been getting a fairly good response from their consumers with the return rate of their devices being somewhere around 1%.
Regarding the pricing of these handsets (especially the Ivory), the company says that they experimented with the pricing of previous models and based on feedback and results, they found that the current segment of 7k to be a sweet spot. Shankar clearly says that the handset initiative is not geared towards making a profit and that their objective is to drive 3G adoption throughout all the towns that they operate in. When quizzed about tablets, he said that the company is still figuring it out.
I feel that this is a good strategy by the network provider but they need to pay more attention to their product. I know that pricing is a function of features/hardware but they need to figure it out in such a way that the phone seems irresistible to their intended audiences. If you compare this phone to other phones in the market from Micromax and Karbonn, you will see that the Ivory is not actually as great or as compelling as Karbonn’s A21 and Micromax’s A110 Superfone Canvas 2. These other phones cost some 2k more than the Ivory and yet have a much better set of features. Idea has a challenge at hand but I think it should gamble and sell better phones at a lower price so that their primary goal of 3G adoption and usage is met.
What are your thoughts on Idea’s strategy? Share them with us.