Android & Asia
Asian markets put emphasis on the software and long life of the device more than the western ones. Samsung, Huawei and OnePlus are excellent choices at the moment. Chinese Brands like Oppo, Vivo and Mi are leading in innovation. BlackBerry, Nokia and Google are emerging in Asia but the still have a long way to go.
A new device released? Go on YouTube and you will find countless reviews for it. YouTube reviews have become the number one source of objective and subjective information about new devices being released nowadays. Channels like MKBHD, TLD, Dave2D and JRE have become excellent sources to get to know the hardware and capabilities of devices being released.
The only issue is that most of these excellent channels exist in the western hemisphere and most of them rarely take into account the ramifications of making a purchase decision in a third world country. That is where we come in to guide the consumers of Pakistan and to some extent Asia.
Two things that most of these reviews miss are as following:
1. Long term sustenance of the device to be bought: Many people in this region don’t have the average income to repeatedly buy a new smartphone every 6 months or even a year, so explaining or giving thoughts about the life of a smartphone is very important. Moreover, the concept of buying a phone on plan is rarely seen, as prepaid is just cheaper compared to postpaid, most people tend to buy devices at full down payment. It can be hard sometimes to judge what the device holds in the future but by keeping the brand name, model series and the general price point in focus, several inferences can be made. Flag ship models usually have a one year cycle but as aforementioned most people will not buy a flag ship or even a mid-range phone, especially since mid-range is becoming more premium now regardless, I wonder what will the next segregation be called, ultra-mid range maybe. Durability is also another point to note, people don’t care about premium feel in this region as much as they do about fit and finish. The glass back design is a massive issue as it breaks easily and then getting your device repaired is another whole article to be written; yeah, things called “official repair shops” are really hard to find here.
2. Software of the device: Having support for software is part of a long term sustenance but the software itself also is important for the region. The title of the article is Android and Asia for a clear reason because Android is the dominant variant when we talk about smartphones followed by iOS and soon KaiOS.
Now Android comes in many flavors, literally- but that is what makes it special, there is an android phone for everyone, even if you used an iPhone, there is one for you, yes- it exists. Taking into account that most people buying smartphones in the region will be first timers and the average tech savviness of people is below than average in countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh etc., the software does play an important role while picking up a device and getting used to it. In the past, iOS has been famous for being simple and direct about things making it the first choice for most people but now, in 2019, iPhone is well above 1,000 USD (not including taxes) which can push the highest variant across 1,800 USD in some places. So we have to take a look at android and its offerings, which have been simplified a lot since Android Oreo.
So keeping these two points in front and center, let’s discuss your options when considering Android in Asia.
The Big 3:
Samsung: Recently this brand has been making strides in it’s mid to low end phone categories and in my opinion, it is the best hardware choice all around for your money. Long term sustenance, great hardware and alongside you have LED in mid-range phones which is hard to find in any other brand at the price range Samsung offers. Out of the 3 prominent series: the J, A and M; I would like to suggest to go with the A series as it is the most tried and tested, J can sometimes be too cheap and M is relatively new to give an expert opinion. On the software side, Samsung has always struggled to keep consumers happy as it relentlessly tries to push its own version of 'stuff' unnecessarily. Recent one being Bixby, which no-one can use here as voice assistants don't really do much in this region except Google Assistant, which I think is the most powerful one at the moment in South Asia region. Samsung loses point in software definitely but the pristine hardware, the excellent camera and screen quality at this price point coupled with their massive marketing in the region has made the brand unparalleled in the Android world.
The M series though is the one to lookout for as it is meant to beat the recent competition laid out by the Chinese mentioned later in this article.
Huawei: Has become the top 3 brand in recent years and for good reasons, to put it simply I think people love Huawei phones for their simpler OS compared to something messy like Samsung.
On YouTube, reviewers usually talk about how cartoony Huawei UI is but the fact is people don't really care about that in this region, what they care about is getting things done in the least touches possible, sound familiar? Yeah, that is what Huawei took from iOS literally. Honestly, if you are an iPhone user and want to ease into Android just pick a Huawei phone and you are good to go. Durability wise, Huawei mid-range phones are so-so, they do break easily and are often light and not sturdy feeling. I would suggest to go with the lite versions of P and Mate series in this brand.
OnePlus: This brand has still a long way to go in Pakistan but it has gained massive popularity in India, it is certainly not cheap but does deserve a mention. The reason being that you can easily buy a 2 year old OnePlus and still be as good as buying the latest one. The software is just so great and it even beats Google's own Pixels software when it comes to stability and bugs.
OnePlus is the go to choice for the well informed. It is always packed with excess hardware to last you for years to come and durability wise up to the model 6, I can confirm it will stand the test of time. So if you can push the budget up just a bit, OnePlus definitely gets the win from me.
The New 3:
What I consider to be new in Android space recently are 3 brands: Google, Nokia and Blackberry.
Google: Their phone is way off being a budget device or being considered a rival in the Asian market so we are going to drop that one immediately, even though it has some of the best specs and hardware in the game.
Blackberry are trying to come back into smartphones ever since they have outsourced their production to TCL. The only issue is that Blackberry always lacks in performance, hardware and camera specs compared to its price point because it assume people are willing to pay extra for the physical keyboard, which some people are and some aren't. Nokia has a similar issue where they aren't able to compete with the giants due to weak performance hardware at similar price points and lack of a true flagship device. These both brands face similar problems but the biggest edge they have over all other brands except OnePlus and Google is their software. Nokia has opted for the Android Go and Android One scheme and the phones run as smooth as if Google sold them. BlackBerry also has a vanilla-ish version of Android skin with great security features which will help the device be fast for longer without unnecessary resets. I think what both brand need is to market the point of having a better software and maybe specs won't matter that much then. Also, the camera is just horrible at the moment on these brands; Nokia did try to rectify the situation by releasing a Spider-Phone? (Nokia 9 PureView); didn't go to well. So if you do want these nostalgic brands in your pocket, I would suggest the BlackBerry Key2 and the Nokia 7.1 and Nokia 6.1 Plus.
The 'Asian' 3:
Chinese brands have gained massive popularity recently in the space since they are actually being innovative and not being followers in a long time. Some examples to throw around are: the super cheap ultra PocoPhone by Mi, the all screen stunner Find X by Oppo, first ever in screen finger print technology revealed by Vivo. Be clear that OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo and Realme have the same parent company so there is a lot of 'self' competition going on with in these brands. Their phones have challenged the low end of the Asian market recently, but the stigma of being Chinese brands surround them; even though all phones are basically made in China. Where these brands suffer heavily yet is the software experience, among all I think Oppo manages to do a better job with its cleaner software and emphasis on selfies, because Asians love them selfies and has managed to find success by marketing to equal levels of Samsung in the region. Oppo is also leading in technologies like fast charging and in screen fingerprint tech but has a long way to achieve the level of a brand like Huawei. If we don't consider the stigma of being Chinese, I would say some phones that are a great buy right now are the PocoPhone and Oppo F series.
By the length of this article you can tell that summarizing Android is almost impossible to a 5 minute read but what I can end with is some guidelines for a fellow Android buyer in Asia.
Nothing else matters except Warranty, always ask for Local Official Warranty and don't be dumbed by phrases like 'International Warranty', because that just means no warranty.
- Want Camera? Go Samsung or Oppo or Huawei
- Want Performance? Go Nokia or OnePlus(Older Version)
- Want Battery? Go Huawei or BlackBerry
- Want Software? Go OnePlus(Older Version) or Nokia or BlackBerry
- Want Raw Specs? Go Mi or Vivo or Samsung
- Want Good Quality Screen? Go Samsung
Be sure to comment if further information required.