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Handset war rages as big releases near

Posted by pakin On October - 3 - 2014

The imminent release of Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Thailand is prodding global smartphone makers to move up their launch schedules to stay current in the high-end handset race.

Additionally, international brands are under price pressure from mobile operators dumping the iPhone 4S and 5S at a discount of up to 10,000 baht each as they prepare for this month’s launch of the iPhone 6.

Global brands have less pricing power as more Asian brands do battle in the mid-range market of 6,000 to 15,000 baht, said Opas Cherdpunt, managing director of M Vision, the organiser of Thailand Mobile Expo 2014.

Samsung yesterday launched its much-anticipated Galaxy Note 4 at the expo ahead of the broader market launch on Oct 10. Thailand is the second launch country for the Note 4 after South Korea.

At the country’s biggest mobile exhibition, running through Sunday at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, handsets with 5.5-inch screens and “group selfie” capability are grabbing attention.

More than 40 handset brands including new entrants Wiko of France, Hong Kong’s iMI and China’s Xiaomi have joined the expo this year, lured by greater political stability and the fourth-quarter peak season for handset sales.

M Vision expects sales revenue to reach 1.5 billion baht over the four-day event, up from 1.2 billion at the company’s previous event in June.

Smartphones priced at 5,000 to 10,000 baht are likely to gain momentum, driven by strong replacement demand from first-time users wanting to shift to the high-end features and functions of smartphones.

Jarit Sidhu, senior market analyst at research firm IDC Thailand, said smartphone makers were increasingly turning their attention to mid-level phones priced at 10,000 to 15,000 baht, a fast-growing segment.

Smartphones priced at 10,000 baht or more are expected to account for 30% of fourth-quarter sales in the Thai market compared with 20% in the first three quarters, he said.

Handsets priced at 20,000 baht or more have also gained a strong foothold here thanks to the drawing power of Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy.

Wichai Pornpratang, vice-president for telecommunications business at Thai Samsung Electronics, said the company brought nearly a thousand Galaxy Note 4 handsets to sell at the expo for 24,900 baht each.

After next Friday’s commercial launch, the Note 4 will retail for 25,900 baht.

Mr Wichai said Samsung sees smartphones with five-inch-plus screens as a growth segment next year after contributing 17.8% of smartphone sales this year.

Samsung plans to introduce new
smartphone models priced at about 10,000 baht to compete with mid-range Chinese brands.

Yantana Simavanichkul, managing director of Microsoft Devices Thailand, said the company was introducing a new smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 830, for 13,900 baht — much cheaper than the previous Lumia 820 that retailed for 18,990 baht.

The company is also rolling out the Nokia Lumia 730 for 8,790 baht to compete in the mid-level market.

“We remain committed to the Thai market, as the country is one of 14 global strategic countries for our smartphone business,” Mr Yantana said.

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