Smartphone market – A bloody clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead has triggered the worst crisis between the two countries since they went to war in 1962. The deadly faceoff led to protests and Chinese goods were burnt in some parts of the country. As calls for the boycott of Made-in-China goods got louder, Gurugram-based Micromax said it will soon launch three new phones, giving Indian consumers a choice. Imposing economic costs on China, one of India’s biggest trading partners, will not be easy and is perhaps best illustrated by India’s smartphone market.
Chinese firms like Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and Realme, with their tech and cost advantages, have reduced home-grown companies like Micromax, Intex, and Karbonn to bit players. According to Counterpoint Research, the four Chinese companies control more than 70 percent of India’s smartphone market, which is the second-largest in the world. China is the world’s top smartphone maker. India is second but largely depends on the neighboring country for components such as chips, batteries, display panels, and printed circuit boards. It remains to be seen then how “Indian” will Micormax’s phones be. Not just Indian phone makers, companies around the world rely heavily on China or Taiwan for components. So, why doesn’t India, which exported 36 million smartphones in FY20, have its own Apple or Samsung?
A processor, or the chip, is the most vital component of a smartphone or any other computing device. It’s an incredibly complex piece of technology that performs billions of mathematical calculations within a second to execute a command.
These semiconductor chips are the brains of computing devices. The process of making them is time-intensive, requires precision and cutting-edge industrial capabilities. Taiwan and China lead the world in making these processors, which are packed with billions of electronic components, through a procedure called semiconductor wafer fabrication. It is a multi-step process that involves making circuits on a wafer made of silicon. The measure of a manufacturer’s skill is how small the transistors can be. Transistors are like switches that turn a signal on or off.
he primary reason India doesn’t have a commercial fab is that it is very expensive.
TSMC spent almost $10 billion in 2010 on a manufacturing facility that can produce 28nm chips. The facility in Taiwan can produce 100,000 wafers a month. smartphone market In the fast-changing technology industry 28nm is already ancient–companies are now eyeing 3nm. A fab has to be retooled every couple of years, at enormous costs, to stay competitive. South Korean giant Samsung spent $14.3 billion in 2014 to set up a new fab. The 3nm process is expected to cost TSMC more than $20 billion. These huge sums are the reason why even a trillion-dollar company like Apple relies on TSMC.
Whether it’s an iPhone or OnePlus, TSMC has made processors for both Apple and Qualcomm. If it’s an AMOLED or OLED display screen, Samsung leads the market followed by LG. Camera lenses for phones are usually designed by Samsung or the Japanese Sony.
smartphone market – Batteries make or break a phone. There are several players in the market, most of them based in China, which has huge lithium reserves. Lithium-ion batteries charge faster and last long as they store lots of energy but still stay light, making them idle for electronics and even electric vehicles.
Most smartphones run on Google’s Android operating system. The package released every year is known as stock Android or vanilla Android in tech circles.
But most phones sold in India run on a custom “skin” that sits on top of stock Android. Smartphone makers change user interface (UI) to alter the way the home screen looks, the way apps are arranged, and introduce other features to stamp their brand. Xiaomi calls it MIUI, Realme has Realme UI, OPPO ships with colorOS, while Vivo’s got FuntouchOS. Even OnePlus relies on OxygenOS. Phone makers have spent years developing these skins to allow customization and it has worked. The current market share proves stock Android phones are a tiny minority.