Smartphone market cut-throat as Chinese rush in

Visitors throng Thailand Mobile Expo, which ends on Sunday at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. TAWEECHAI TAWATPAKORN

The sluggish economy has caused fierce smartphone competition as Chinese phone makers flood the market and mobile operators offer longer payment instalments of up to 36 months at the Thailand Mobile Expo.

After Advanced Info Service received an 1800-megahertz licence, its slashed its iPhone X 256GB price from 45,000 baht to 24,000 baht to subscribers who switch to AIS.

Total Access Communication Plc offers a 5,000-baht discount for its iPhone X with a free Apple Watch worth 15,000 baht. True Move sells the iPhone X (256GB) at 29,000 baht and the 32GB iPhone 6 for 1,500 baht.

“In the first three quarters, local smartphone sales performed poorly as consumers were reluctant to purchase new phones, but the market will rebound this quarter,” said Opas Cherdpan, managing director of M Vision Plc, the organiser of Thailand Mobile Expo.

The event is being held at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center until Sept 30 this year. Next year it will move to Bitec.

Fierce competition was evident at Thailand Mobile Expo as Android smartphone makers offered complimentary products with the purchase of new phones such as free air purifiers.

There were discount campaigns for those who purchased larger mobile data packages from operators, as well as 3,000-4,000-baht price reductions for iPhones.

Phone distributors also extended their payment instalment programmes from 24 to 36 months.

The four-day show aims to reach 2 billion baht with 700,000 visitors.

The greatest sales band during the expo is expected to be devices priced over 10,000 baht.

Dusit Sukhumvithaya, co-chief executive of Jaymart Mobile, said in the past nine months, local smartphones sales contracted 10% in term of units and saw a 5% contraction in value as buyers put off purchases from 18 months to 24 months.

However, in the fourth quarter local smartphone sales are expected to be flat in terms of value, with units contracting to single digits to tally 18 million total units in 2018.

“New Chinese phone makers who just entered the Thai market might be pushed out of the market within 1-2 years if they do not have any hero products to win over customers,” said Mr Dusit.

Chanon Jirayukul, executive vice-president of Thai Oppo Co, said the market leader will have around a 25% market share and there will be no dominant player with 35-40% as more players rush in.

Wichai Pornpratang, vice-president of Thai Samsung Electronics, admitted Chinese brands are quite strong in the middle bracket. Samsung plans to launch new mid-range products by year-end.

The smartphone market is expected to reach 15 million units this year, and remain flat in 2019 because of saturation.

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