'Asha phones fail to help Nokia regain market share' [Telecom] [Times of India]
(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) NEW DELHI: It's been a year since Nokia's Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop launched the Asha series of feature phones targeting millions of Indians in the low-cost mobile phone market. Since then, Asha has become one of the best-selling handset series in the country. But has it helped the Finnish handset maker regain its popularity among the masses Probably not.
"In terms of market share, I don't think they have come back," Gartner's principal research analyst Anshul Gupta says. "However, with successful launch of Asha series devices, Nokia has been able to stabilize its share in recent past," he adds.
Gupta says Asha is a very good device in the Rs 4,000-Rs 6,000 price point with touch user interface and some apps that are found in smartphones. "From that perspective, it is getting competitive and getting market share. But Nokia is still being challenged in the overall market," he says.
During the first six months of the year, Nokia managed to get the largest share of shipments, more than 22 per cent share of 102.43 million mobile phones coming into India, CyberMedia Research said in a report last month. Samsung and Micromax followed with 13 per cent and 5.5 per cent share, respectively.
But this has only helped Nokia arrest its fall in the market, not regain the market share it lost to Samsung, BlackBerry and local players such as Micromax and Karbonn in both the high-end and low-end of Rs 31,000-cr handset market in recent years.
Sari Harju, Nokia's head of mobile phones in India, says the Asha range has been very well received in India, and its most popular model, Asha 305, is sold out at all retail outlets. "That's a very good situation to be in. We're pleased with the development and traction we've got from customers in India," she says.
On Monday, the company introduced a new Asha 205 with a feature called 'Slam' that allows users to share any kind of data on Bluetooth without using internet data. The device along with the Nokia 206 will be available next month for under Rs 3,000.
Nokia sold 6.5 million Asha devices in the July-September quarter across the world.
Nokia's biggest hope
Clearly, Asha is what gives hope to Nokia. Under Asha, Nokia offers full touch devices that offer a smartphone-like experience, complete with a capable web browser, exchange email support and gaming.
Vaibhav Sharma, founding editor of The Handheld Blog that specialises in covering Nokia devices, says the Asha lineup has been a huge pillar of strength for Nokia with increasing sales that go against the international trend of people moving away from feature phones.
Nokia's initial focus was to plug the QWERTY and dual-SIM gap in its portfolio and offer feature-rich devices at low prices points. However, the move away from Symbian and the cost of making Windows Phone devices meant that Nokia needed something in the low-mid end segment to fight off competition from low-cost touch-based phones, he says. That's how Asha happened.
Faisal Kawoosa, lead analyst at CMR Telecom Practice, says, "In a way Asha has really become the 'asha' of Nokia."
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