India’s smartphone market expanded 64 per cent in Q3 from a year ago with growing traction from low-cost domestic and Chinese vendors.

Samsung continued to lead, with a 25 per cent market share, followed by local hero Micromax with a 20 per cent share and Karbonn with a 10 per cent share, according to Counterpoint Research.

But in the overall mobile handset market (see chart below), it’s a tight race between Samsung and Micromax for the top spot. Samsung narrowly regained the lead from Micromax in Q3 (15.1 per cent vs 14.5 per cent) after the Indian vendor passed the South Korean giant in Q2.
India handset market

Motorola remained the fourth largest smartphone vendor, but Counterpoint expects a close race next quarter for the third and fourth spots between Motorola-Lenovo, Karbonn, Sony, Lava-Xolo and Xiaomi.

Three out of four smartphones sold in India will soon be 3G models, said Tarun Pathak, a senior analyst at Counterpoint. The INR6,000-8,000 ($100-130) price band is driving this trend and contributed to almost 30 per cent of smartphone sales in Q3.

He noted that India’s smartphone market still has plenty of room for vendors to grow as uptake expands beyond urban areas.

The decline in smartphone prices is the result of the proliferation of not only local brands engaging in a price war but also the entry of highly price-competitive Chinese brands, said Tina Lu, a senior consultant at Counterpoint.

She said these brands are employing cost-effective distribution strategies such as online e-commerce channels to keep the costs low to gain price competitiveness, which is a boon to consumers.

The last quarter saw three vendors sell more than one million smartphones in one quarter for the first time in India.

Counterpoint said Motorola’s leaner go-to-market strategy coupled with an exciting portfolio of Moto X/G/E phones at competitive price points is being received well by urban consumers. Sony also hit the one-million mark with its Xperia smartphones. And India’s Lava shipped one million of its Iris sub-branded smartphones. It saw strong momentum for its budget models such as Lava Iris X1 and X5.

Counterpoint expects Xiaomi, Xolo, Gionee and Intex to join the million smartphone club soon.

Within two months of entering in India, Xiaomi gained a 1.5 per cent share of the smartphone market and is on track to double that in the next quarter, Counterpoint forecasts.

Apple also reached a milestone during Q3 by selling more than one million iPhone units for the first time in its fiscal year in India. Apple captured almost half of the high-profit premium segment, taking share away from Samsung.