The rise of smartphone players in the smart TV market

By Debasish Jana

Smartphone makers are now eyeing the smart TV market globally. Smart TV is a natural extension for a lot of device makers as they are quite familiar with the TV supply chain. When the world is moving towards the smart living concept and smart TV can be considered as the first step in that smart home ecosystem. Smartphone makers are leveraging brand recognition that they already have in the market and they have enough technical expertise to develop a product like smart TV. So, the entry barrier in the smart TV market is really low for smartphone companies.

Smartphone makers are specifically going into the smart TV business and targeting mostly the Asian market where the smart TV category is less mature than the North American and European market. In North America and Europe, traditional TV brands like Samsung, LG and Sony enjoy much more brand recognition than the newly-entered Chinese brands, like Xiaomi and OnePlus. Chinese brands are already dominating the smartphone market in China and India while Xiaomi grabbed the no. 1 position in the Indian smart TV market.

Xiaomi is one of the first smartphone companies to foray into the smart TV segment. Xiaomi already has established itself as a value-for-money brand in the smartphone market and it is capitalising on that brand proposition to enter the smart TV market, in a time when smart TV was not affordable for the mass, especially in the Asian market. Nevertheless, Xiaomi got the early mover advantage and grabbed a 7% share in the smart TV market globally.

The Rise of Smartphone Players in the Smart TV Market

After the success of Xiaomi in the Asian market, especially in China and India, other smartphone makers entered the market with a special focus on those two countries. Although Motorola and Nokia have launched the products only in India to exploit the opportunity in the booming India smart TV market – it is unlikely they will expand to other markets soon.  In China, Huawei launched smart TVs running on its Harmony OS under both Huawei and Honor brands.

Most of these brands tapped into a market where consumers are buying a smart TV for the first time. They are offering a tailored and feature-rich product to the consumer at an affordable price point. By contrast, OnePlus is differentiating itself by launching a premium smart TV.

Realme will likely intensify competition in the affordable smart TV segment with its newly launched smart TV range. For these brands focusing on certain specs along with overall value proposition is very important as the life cycle of TV is around 4-5 years which is very different from smartphones (2-3 years).

While Chinese smartphone brands are aggressive in the Asian smart TV market, Indian and Japanese TV brands still have a fair chance to increase the share in Asia, especially in the Indian market. The Indian smart TV market is poised to grow as the Internet is penetrating at a faster pace and OTT consumption is growing. TV is a much more family-involved purchase compared to a smartphone; decision making is done by a group of individuals rather than a single person. Recently, VU is doing well in India with its wide range of smart TVs. Brands like Kodak and Thomson are technically licensed to Indian EMS, Super Plastronics, and are also performing quite well.

Traditional TV brands, such as Samsung, LG and Sony, still have enough brand recognition around the world while new smartphone players are appealing to millennials who are familiar with these brands. So, a lot will depend on the positioning for the brands. Moreover, most of the Chinese brands are playing in the affordable segment; the premium segment contains few brands.

Brands have to connect to their consumers and have to tailor the offerings according to the consumer needs. A well-balanced pricing strategy across the product portfolio is also essential to be successful.

(The author is a Research Associate who tracks television industry and telecommunication ecosystem in Counterpoint Technology Market Research).


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