Independence Day 2018: Taking stock of Made-In-India smartphones

This Independence Day, we take a look at some of the best phones that are made in India along with the journey of smartphone manufacturing in the country.

Published Date
14 - Aug - 2018
| Last Updated
14 - Aug - 2018
 
Independence Day 2018: Taking stock of Made-In-India smartphones

The smartphone landscape in India has changed drastically over the past few years. After China, India is the go-to market to find a smartphone success story. Today, India is not just one of the largest smartphone consumer markets in the world, it is also a country where these devices are produced. With the government's push to "Make-In-India", we have seen a reduction in duties and an uptake in benefits for manufacturers making phones in India. We have also seen global giants like Foxconn and Wistron set up manufacturing/assembling plants in India.

From Xiaomi's smartphones and power banks to OnePlus’ entire portfolio of smartphones, India has emerged as a manufacturing hub of choice for global technology giants and startups alike. Even some older iPhones are now made in India by Apple, while its competitor Samsung recently inaugurated the world's largest smartphone assembly plant in the country. The new Samsung factory is said to double the company's current mobile phone manufacturing capacity of 67 million to 120 million, by 2020. Other smartphone makers like Lava, Micromax, Celkon, Intex, iBall, Karbonn, and more have also been making phones in India for a while now. Nokia is also expected to manufacture components in India. Ajey Mehta, Vice President India, HMD Global, recently said. “Until this year, we imported all our components and assembled them here. Now we will be manufacturing some of the components in India as well... next year more, and the year after that even more. It’s going to be a phased manner in which we start switching to component manufacturing also.”

Needles to say, India has a sizeable infrastructure when it comes to making phones. While most phones are currently only ‘assembled in India’ and not ‘manufactured’ from scratch here, the day is not far when we will see semiconductors and SoCs being manufactured in the country. It's just a matter of time.

China's Xiaomi has already said that the company will have locally assembled printed circuit boards (PCB) by the third quarter of 2018. “We have started manufacturing PCBs in India. The aim is that 100 percent of the devices manufactured in India have locally assembled on manufactured PCBs by the third quarter (July-September) this year” said Xiaomi VP and India Managing Director Manu Jain.

So yes, the dream of a smartphone 100% made in India isn’t a far-fetched one.

As per a report by the ICA (Indian Cellular Association), India is now the second largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world. According to the data shared by ICA, annual production of mobile phones in India increased from 3 million units in 2014 to 11 million units in 2017. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has also made some recommendations for promotion of local manufacturing in India. The TRAI wants the telecom manufacturing sector in India to be less "import-dependent" and instead, focus on being a global hub for local manufacturing. The regulatory body has recommended that India should have "net zero imports of telecommunication equipment" by 2020.  

Commenting on the same, Broadband India Forum made a key point saying, “Today, India’s domestic manufacturers remain largely reliant upon the innovations and standards set up by the international players and organisations. Consequently, Manufacturing value added (MVA) by Indian manufacturers, either OEMs or ODMs, is relatively small due to high dependence on imported components and completely built up phones. Considering rapid increase in smartphone penetration from current levels and large dependency on imports, a slew of measures around making India a Global R & D hub, having a robust IPR framework, focus on exports etc is crucial for Govt’s flagship project - Make in India.” There are some facts to support this recommendation. A 2017 story in the Hindu Business Line reads - “Nearly 95 per cent of revenues generated from selling locally assembled phones goes back to China from where components for the product come.” This is because the parts which are assembled in India are imported from China. The story goes on to say, “The total value of mobile phones sold in India in 2016 was about $12 billion (cost to manufacturer) on a retail value of $16 billion. Of this, only $650 million worth of value-addition was done locally. That comes to 5.6 per cent. Vietnam has a value-addition of 35 per cent, Brazil 17 per cent while China has more than 70 per cent.”

With the increase in component manufacturing in India, this value add should increase considerably in the years to come. For now, there are a number iof popular smartphones that find their roots in India. Today we will take a look at some of the best phones that are made in India.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5/Note 5 Pro/ Mi A1

Xiaomi has quite a large portfolio of smartphones in the budget segment. But the budget king has always been Xiaomi’s Redmi Note series of devices. Since the days of the Redmi Note 3 all the way to today’s Redmi Note 5 and Note 5 Pro, the smartphones bring with them design, features and specifications that can punch way above their asking price. From a metal build, dual camera and the latest operating system, the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a great example of why you don’t need to spend a fortune on a smartphone.

The Mi A1 was Xiaomi’s first foray into the world of stock Android in 2017 and was quite the success story becoming Digit’s best phone under 15k at one point. Needless to say, its successor is one that we liked too.

Xiaomi also assembles its 10000mAh and 20000mAh power banks in India. You can read more about it here.  

Xiaomi has a total of six smartphone manufacturing plants in India. Smartphones and power banks are assembled in partnership with Hipad Technology in Noida. There are three smartphone plants, in partnership with Foxconn, located across Sri City, Andhra Pradesh and a new campus in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

Honor 7X/9 Lite

Another company that has a large portfolio of smartphones in India is Honor. An interesting fact to note is that the Honor 7X was available cheapest in India compared to its global price which is commendable. Honor has worked at making a unique space for itself in the crowded smartphone market. Taking the trend of AI and selfies head on, the Honor 7X brought with it an interesting set of features including a sturdy build. The 9 Lite brought with it a dual-camera setup in the front and a dual-camera setup at the back, ensuring there was no excuse for you not to click a lot of pictures. In our review of the Honor 9 Lite, we said that the smartphone brings with it the latest from the world of Android along with a premium design and Full HD+ display. Sadly, the camera didn’t live up to the hype for us.

The Honor 7X is manufactured at Flex's plant in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai

Nokia phones

Making a comeback under the HMD umbrella Nokia has an interesting portfolio of devices catering to the budget user all the way up to the premium smartphone customer. The Nokia 3 brought with it a polycarbonate build making it quite the sturdy budget device whereas the Nokia 6 was made from a single block of aluminium. The specs on paper of the device may not wow you but the promise that the phone is functional and will receive timely updates is a factor that’s more important to some.

Nokia phones are manufactured at the Foxconn plant near Chennai.

Moto G5/G5 Plus

Moto’s G series of smartphones have always been functional and ideal for those looking for a simple smartphone experience. The G5 and G5 Plus brought with them a functional design, stock Android UI with a hint of useful moto features and the G5 Plus even sported a dual camera setup.

Moto phones in india are assembled at Flex’s facility in Chennai

Jio Phone

Services such as streaming content, social networking and banking on your phone are features that need you to have a smartphone. If there is one company credited with changing that, it is Reliance. With the launch of the JioPhone, the company ensured that everyone had access to content on the go and a “smartphone” wasn’t necessarily a requirement to access certain features online, including some popular apps. Jio’s 4G and VoLTE services also ensured that the cost of data plans and the amount of data available to users in India was redefined.

BlackBerry Evolve/EvolveX

The BlackBerry Evolve and EvolveX smartphones are designed and manufactured at Optiemus Infracom's Noida facility. The Evolve will be available from the end of August whereas the EvolveX will be available from September. Both the smartphones may not have state of the art SoC’s under the hood, but these phones are aimed at the business man for whom things like security, a good typing experience and overall build quality are important. Whether the devices stand tall for these requirements is something we will tell you when we review the smartphones.

iPhone SE/6S

Once upon a time, Apple would launch their smartphones a year later in India. Today, the difference in launch window between the US and India is a matter of weeks. That’s how important a market India is for Apple. With the make in India initiative, Apple started the assembly of the iPhone SE followed by the assembly of the iPhone 6S in India. The latest iPhones in India are the 8, 8 Plus and the iPhone X with the next gen iPhones just around the corner. We are still waiting for newer iPhones to be made in India.

iPhones in india are assembled at the Wistron facility in Bengaluru

Samsung phones – entry level to the flagship

With the inauguration of its largest mobile factory, Samsung is expected to roll out 120 million devices from its Noida facility by 2020. This facility will be home not only to the company’s budget devices, but flagship offerings as well. It still needs to be noted that the devices are assembled in India. Samsung pipped Xiaomi in the smartphone shipments for Q2 2018 as per counterpoint. According to the report, Samsung surpassed Xiaomi with 29 per cent market share in the second quarter of 2018. This is because counterpoint also takes into account shipment of components to make phones. So when Samsung ordered a huge shipment of components to India for the Noida facility, they managed to gain ahead over Xiaomi in that quarter.

Micromax Canvas Infinity

There are a number of home-grown companies that make smartphones in India, but Micromax is one of the few that has launched devices that aim to keep up with changing smartphone trends. At its launch, back in August 2017, we said that the Canvas Infinity was the best-looking phone under the 10k price point. It had a dependable battery life along with a decent camera. The UI though, was something we weren’t fond of. Micromax is a company that has had a rollercoaster ride in India. Once upon a time, the market was flooded with Micromax devices. Micromax was also one of the budget smartphone makers to implement Gorilla Glass on the smartphones display. Its been a while since we’ve seen a device from Micromax stir up the market, but we do wish the company gets back on the horse before its too late.

OnePlus

OnePlus has become one of India’s top premium smartphone brand in a short span of time and the company assembles its smartphones in India. Vikas Agarwal, OnePlus’ General Manager has said, “We are finalising our plans on local component manufacturing or sourcing. If the plans become successful, India can potentially become our global manufacturing hub with handsets getting exported from here.” OnePlus’ entire portfolio of smartphones are assembled in India. OnePlus smartphones in India are assembled in Oppo mobile facility in Noida.

SRT phone

The Smartron SRT phone is one of the first phones to be designed, engineered and assembled in India. In our review of the device we said that the phone has a bright display, good build and impressive performance. It also brings with it unlimited cloud storage. However, the phone's poor camera, heating issues and battery life make it hard to recommend over competing devices. Nonetheless we have seen an impressive portfolio of devices from the company, Smartron, including home automation and IOT solution that are designed in India. You can check out more about the smartron smartphone here.

That was a look at some of the best phones that are Made in India. The portfolio of devices is much larger than what we’ve covered here. The journey for Make in India smartphones has just begun and with the growth in manufacturing of PCBs in India, we think the contribution of make in India devices to the growth of the economy of the country could be much higher and is yet to show its true colours.

Sameer MithaSameer Mitha

Sameer Mitha lives for gaming and technology is his muse. When he isn’t busy playing with gadgets or video games he delves into the world of fantasy novels.


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