New Delhi: iPhone 5, iPad Mini, Nexus 7 and Galaxy SIII rocked the devices market in 2012, but as gadgets get slimmer, sexier and more powerful, similar to those seen in 007 Bond flicks, gadget enthusiasts are in for a treat in 2013.
2012 saw users transitioning from feature phones to smartphones as they moved from just talking and texting to tweeting, networking socially and shopping with increasing mobile Internet penetration and lower data tariffs.
From a little over 100 million Internet users in 2011, the number has now grown to close to 140 million with more people, especially youth, going online using their mobile phones.
"The handset market remained dynamic in 2012 with a clear preference emerging for smarter performing devices among consumers. The trend was not limited to the high end only but even entry level users moving up aspired it all," Nokia Senior Vice President (Sales - IMEA) D Shivakumar said.
In 2013, Nokia expects to see a massification of these two trends with lower price points for devices and a plethora of relevant services and content being available, he added.
Smartphone lineup for gadget freaks includes Apple iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nokia Lumia 920 and 820.
According to a McKinsey & Company report, Internet-linked consumption and expenditure in India contributes an estimated USD 30 billion, or about 1.6 per cent of the GDP and is poised to account for 2.8 to 3.3 per cent by 2015.
The same report says India is likely to also have the second-largest Internet user base in the world with 330 million to 370 million Internet users in 2015.
This year, while mobile browsers were a default installation on the handsets, companies like Nokia focussed on offering devices with a dedicated Facebook button.
Operators also introduced special tariff plans to allow consumers surf the net and visit social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Another highlight of the year was the flooding of Indian market with low-cost tablet PCs, with the likes of Micromax, HCL and Zen launching their devices to cater to the burgeoning demand from rural parts of the country as well as increasing interest from enterprises.
Traditionally dominated by global giants like Apple and Samsung, the tablet PC price war is now being fought at the bottom of the pyramid with many lesser known companies introducing devices for segments like education and enterprises.
"We are finding it easier to sell high end phones compared to economy range phone. On an average, we have been able to sell an average of 25,000 unit of our Intel chip-based Xolo phones which are in the price range of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000," Lava International's founder member and Director S N Rai said.
Even as delivery delays have marred government's ambitious 'Aakash' tablet PCs from taking off, the government is now looking at launching an advanced Aakash 2 soon aiming to provide affordable devices to the students.
Maker of Aakash, Canada's Datawind, also launched similar devices under 'Ubislate' brand.
"The tablet PC market would continue to grow in 2013. From 34,000 units in Q1 of 2011 to 8.44 lakh in Q3 this year, there has been unprecedented growth in the category. There are two clear categories -- Rs 26,000 to Rs 40,000 and Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 and both categories will grow strongly," IDC India General Manager Jaideep Mehta said.
According to hardware industry body MAIT, the Indian tablet PC market is expected to grow at 40 per cent to 7.3 million units in 2015-16 from 0.95 million in 2011-12.
MAIT further suggests that the total PC sales between April 2011 and March 2012, stood at 10.8 million units growing 16 per cent over the last fiscal.
While desktop sales grew 11 per cent to 6.7 million units, notebooks recorded a consumption of 3.7 million units, sales up 26 per cent over the last year.
"2013 will be better. Consumption patterns are changing and people want to do more with less. We will see a lot of devices, powered by Windows 8, in 2013, especially in innovative form factors like convertibles," HP India VP and GM (Personal Systems Group) Rajiv Srivastava said.
He added that devices like ultrabooks and ultrabook convertibles, coupled with Windows 8 operating system, will change the way one interacts with the computer screen in the year ahead.
Tailored for a world shifting from personal computers to smartphones and tablets, the beta version of Microsoft's new operating system was made available in the beginning of the year. Commercial availability of devices with the new OS began in the latter half of the year.
The year 2012 also saw some big bang launches like that of Apple's iPhone 5 and iPad Mini (the smaller version of its bestseller iPad) this year, while Nokia expanded its Lumia and Asha series of smartphones.
However, it was Korean electronic giant Samsung which stole the thunder from these multinationals with a slew of smartphone launches including Galaxy SIII.
"In India, we expect that the smartphone market will touch 17 million mark, which is nearly double the size in 2011. We expect the trend to continue," a Samsung spokesperson said, adding that a similar growth is expected for tablet PCs and ultrabooks.
"Last year, the tablet PC market was about 500,000. We expect it to grow to 1.5 million this year. The ultabooks market this year is expected to be about 1.6 million," the spokesperson said.
According to research firm Gartner, over 1.2 billion mobile phones were sold in the January-September 2012 period, of which 479.94 million were smartphones.
Samsung's sold over 138 million smartphones during the period, while Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) sold over 85 million and 26.79 million smartphones, respectively.
Nokia sold 13.31 million and 7.2 million smartphones in the January-March and July-September 2012, respectively.
The year, however, did not bring much cheer for RIM. Though RIM's BlackBerry devices continued to gain traction in India, globally its market share declined.
However, RIM is betting on the new fleet of devices, to be launched in January, will revive its fortunes. RIM has said the new devices, featuring BB 10, will be faster and smoother than previous BlackBerry phones and will also have a larger bouquet of apps.
Apps were also big with consumers lapping up games like Angry Birds, to photo app Instagram to instant messaging apps like Whatsapp to navigation apps, making most of their smartphones.
In a massive victory, Apple won its patent case against Samsung, under which the Korean company was asked to pay more than USD 1 billion.
The ruling came after a jury in California found that Samsung had violated a series of Apple's patents related to software and design of mobile devices.
With high-speed Internet services like Long Term Evolution (LTE) on the anvil, sales of tablet PCs, ultrabooks and smartphones are set to increase further. The Indian government has set a target of 600 million high-speed Internet connections across the country by 2020.
The popularity of Google's Android powered devices has only grown during the year, with the operating system commanding 72.4 per cent share of the market.
Straight out of a sci-fi flick was Google's Project Glass, a product that would display information in smartphone-like format and help people interact with the Internet through voice commands.
2011 was the year for dual SIM phones, while 2012 was one for tablet PCs.
Irrespective of whether 2013 turns out to be a big one for ultrabooks or not, one thing is for sure, consumers will be treated to faster, sleeker and more converged devices and presence of stiff competition will ensure that the latest gadgets are easy on the pocket too.
First Published: Friday, December 28, 2012, 15:51