India is far behind the West and China to embrace the next-generation telecommunications network, 5G. This, however, hasn’t stopped smartphone companies from launching “5G phones” in India. Since there’s no 5G network and unlikely to be available in the next couple of years, the buzz around so-called India’s first 5G phones seems nothing less than marketing hype. For Indian consumers, the question is should they buy a phone just for the 5G?
At the helm of everything 5G in India right now is Qualcomm that came out with the 5G modems, and more recently with the Snapdragon 865. Realme and iQoo launched X50 Pro 5G and iQoo 3 smartphones respectively. Both of the phones are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, the chip bundled with 5G modem. Xiaomi also pulled off something similar but just a “showcase” of its Snapdragon 855-powered Mi Mix Alpha concept phone.
Qualcomm says it is betting big on the futureproof-ness by ringing Snapdragon 865 to smartphones in the country. And these smartphones, even though losing their ‘most powerful’ tag by the time 5G comes to India, will still be ready for the particular network bands and you won’t have to get a new handset altogether.
But the argument can be countered with the fact that Indian smartphone users tend to upgrade their phones quite soon. According to 91mobiles Smartphone Buyer Insights Study 2019, 2 out of 5 Indians replace their smartphones every 12 months. Another 2019 survey by Counterpoint said that the “replacement cycles among the potential premium smartphone buyers, who are currently using a smartphone priced above Rs 20,000, are around two years.
Sachin Kalantri, Senior Director, Product Marketing, Qualcomm India, said, “The global handset ecosystem will start moving towards 5G and more affordable handsets are expected later part of the year. Aligning with global trends has its own benefits and will bring cost optimizations for discernible Indian consumers. Although many consumers do not use handsets for more than a year, these handsets get handed down. As such, someone of the other using that handset can become the beneficiary of the technology. Further, as you travel to a 5G enabled region/country, the user will be able to take advantage of the services.”